Recruiting for the industry

Securing a highly skilled workforce has been a key issue discussed, debated and acted on within the gas industry. While the current economic climate may be changing this situation in some ways, what has not changed is the need for a recruitment process that targets the right employees and ensures their continuing education within an expanding and rapidly developing industry.

Speaking to Gas Today, Arrow Energy, ERM Power and Epic Energy noted that a skills shortage is a major issue when looking to recruit employees. An ERM Power spokesperson stated that the gas roles the company recruits for require a specialised skill set, and with multiple gas projects currently underway in Australia, the availability of key staff and consultants is limited.

The company points to the number of liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in development placing pressure on the human resources available in the market by reducing the number of skilled candidates available. These projects are due for completion around 2014-15, when the company believes the number of skilled candidates available should increase.

Epic Energy said it has had difficulty recruiting skilled workers in rural areas. The company noted that recruiting from these areas is often hard due to travel costs for interviews and arranging medical testing.

Epic’s spokesperson said “Until recently, candidates were attracted to the high salaries offered by the mining sector and they would often seek salaries and benefits that Epic could not compete with.

“Also, we have experienced what some term the “˜Gen Y’ factor – those with expectations of remuneration and development that are not commensurate with their skills and experience.”?

Rules of attraction

All three companies use a combination of job-seeker methods such as newspaper classifieds, employment websites, career exhibitions and word of mouth to recruit staff.

“Newspaper classifieds, such as the Australian Financial Review, are used for the management roles; but word of mouth is probably the most utilised channel within the company,”? said the ERM spokesperson. “Given the small size of the industry, this has been shown to be a particularly effective tool when used during recruitment.”?

The spokesperson went on to say that word of mouth is a valuable method to identify the best candidate for the job because the company uses the medium to check the track record and achievements of the candidate within the industry. “This ensures that we are engaging well-respected and highly skilled industry professionals.”?

Arrow Energy said that its HR team has worked closely with the employment office to tailor a recruitment process that works, including an advanced online job application and screening system. “This system successfully identifies the best candidates for the job from a large pool of applicants,”? said the Arrow spokesperson.

Epic said that it finds a combination of interviewing by technical employees and an HR assessment of a candidate’s skill base, as well as their cultural fit within the company.

While interviews are seen as integral for the recruitment process for any role, companies use a variety of other methods to ensure that a candidate is right for the job. These include formal reference checking, word of mouth and medical testing.

ERM Power said “In terms of assessing the practical skills of the candidate, every effort is made to assess [their] track record and key achievements in the industry and their successes in relation to previous projects relative to the capacity in which we are seeking to engage them.”?

Training for a skilled workforce

In addition to using different methods to get the right employees for the jobs on offer, the companies interviewed also recognise that training current employees is integral to success.

Epic said “Each role in the organisation has a set of skills and competencies – some roles require specific qualifications or skills to be achieved before advancement, some require a minimum amount of on the job experience and others require a combination of both of these.”?

The company also said that project work often provides an opportunity for employees to be selected in a secondment capacity, and the company encourages these “˜acting roles’ for development. Other roles within the company, such as field maintenance and control room operators, have an extensive program that involves induction and training modules.

ERM has a similar philosophy, encouraging internal promotion where someone demonstrates a particular strength. “If the company or the employee identifies an area where further training would be of benefit to that employee and in turn of benefit to the company, we provide the utmost support to that employee to undertake training.”?

Arrow has established an in-house training department that supports staff in accessing in-house and external training courses.

“We believe that the company will not reach its full potential unless our people do as well. We encourage and challenge our team to learn and provide a series of internal training courses in health, safety and the environment, as well as a complete roster of external courses related to professional and self development,”? the company spokesperson said.

Arrow also said that it has established a remuneration system that offers a series of performance-based incentives as well as a long service allowance. “As the company’s success grows, so does the success of our people.”?

The current climate

If anything, the companies interviewed see the global financial crisis as having a positive impact on recruitment for the industry.

“There are more candidates in the job market and of much higher quality,”? said Epic. “People are no longer chasing the higher remuneration but looking more for security and tenure.”?

ERM agrees, “The current economic climate has made recruitment significantly easier in terms of sourcing skilled candidates, as the number available on the market has increased substantially over the past few months.”?

Arrow said that its activities are in no way slowing down and will be increasing its investment in training and developing its existing workforce, while also creating new jobs through the expansion of existing coal seam gas production fields and proposed LNG projects.

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