O&G industry looks to talent and technology on stronger outlook

According to MEI, Malaysia’s O&G sector has witnessed positive annual growth in online recruitment since April last year

By MARK RAO / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

Malaysia’s oil and gas (O&G) sector is looking to recruit and invest in new talent and technology due to improved market confidence as a result of stronger energy prices.

Monster.com Asia-Pacific and Middle East CEO Abhijeet Mukherjee said these factors have unlocked new investments and operations in large-scale O&G projects.

“This increase in activity is enabling companies to refocus on recruiting quality talent to lead and deliver value,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

The industry, he added, is gradually shifting from dependency on manual labour to becoming data-and analytics-driven.

“We see recruitment happening in new areas such as robotics, big data and artificial intelligence as companies use technology to make working conditions more attractive, better forecast and production more economically viable.”

According to the Monster Employment Index (MEI), Malaysia’s O&G sector has witnessed positive annual growth in online recruitment since April last year.

Tracking online recruitment trends in Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, the monthly index last showed an 8% year-on-year growth in hiring activity for the sector in August this year.

The positive recruitment trend comes on the back of stronger crude oil prices, now averaging US$84 (RM344.40) a barrel for the Brent index as compared to US$28.94 per barrel on Jan 15, 2016.

This has created renewed investment interest in upstream development works, especially costly offshore rigs which are profitable at current price levels, while encouraging major oil firms to increase their expenditure.

The final investment decision secured last week for the multibillion LNG Canada project in British Columbia, Canada, is a testament to the bullish sentiment.

Valued at US$31.9 billion, the development of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility will be jointly undertaken by Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas), Royal Dutch Shell plc, PetroChina Co Ltd, Mitsubishi Corp and Korea Gas Corp.

Mukherjee said oil companies remain cautious despite the positive sentiment and are quick to respond to market conditions.

This is in view of the 2014 oil crisis that sent oil prices crashing to US$50 per barrel from the US$100 per barrel highs in just under a six-month period and led to the cancellation of several large-scale projects globally.

“After the prolonged downturn, the upswing in oil prices is sufficient in encouraging significant upstream O&G recruitment to get production up and running,” Mukherjee said.

However, the industry downturn forced players to re-examine their cost structures and invest in new assets such as software systems and predictive technology.

“Cost cutting is still a high priority and oil companies are also focusing on technologies that will automate processes, reduce risk and allow for lower headcount in certain disciplines,” he said.

“New technology has always made some tasks and roles disappear more quickly, but it also has created new occupations.”

Workers in the O&G sector will have to upskill themselves as demand for talent in data science, analytics and development of new materials will be highly valued and sought after in the industry, Mukherjee said.

“While oil companies are expected to invest in more upstream activities and capital expenditure, they are also embracing new changes by strengthening their operating models and directing investment and development into new, innovative and sustainable technology that has a positive effect on job volume.”