Q&A: The Energy Skills Gap with Yinson’s Paal K. Ødegaard

Paal K. Ødegaard, Head of Crewing at Yinson, sits down with Energy Digital to discuss energy skills gap obstacles and how to get ahead of the problem. Arguably one of the most critical obstacles that the energy industry is struggling with right now, the shortage of skilled workers is having an impact wherever you look. It’s anticipated that, by 2025, there will be a shortfall of 40,000 competent workers, with up to 85 million unfilled jobs due to skill shortages. 

This comes at a time when the industry is going through an unprecedented transformation period, and a lack of skilled workers is slowing down the initiation of new projects, especially those aimed towards energy transition. The demands on the energy industry to work toward net zero require a competent and compliant skilled workforce. Without upskilling, the existing energy workforce in its current form cannot fill work effectively toward these goals, and will see organisations scramble to fill roles with new talent. Paal K. Ødegaard is Yinson’s Head of Crewing and is a thought leader in the skills and competency management space. A Norwegian Army veteran, Paal has worked in the oil & gas space for more than 15 years and has amassed a wealth of hands-on experience in dealing with the full spectrum of HR within the energy sector, something he calls the most exciting part of his career.

In his current role, he has global responsibility for the full HR lifecycle and scope of all Yinson’s offshore employees. The company specialises in refurbishing existing floating production storage and offloading vessels (FPSOs) and converting tankers into FPSOs to suit its clients’ needs, playing a vital part in the ongoing energy transition from oil & gas to more renewable energy. Sitting down with Energy Digital, Paal talks through the challenge of plugging the existing skills gap across the energy industry, and sheds light on how organisations can eradicate this problem for the sake of their business and the wider sector.

Q. How has Yinson approached the issue of skills shortages in the energy industry?

In most of the countries where we operate, we are under a strict nationalisation regime when it comes to our offshore crew. Normally, we need to have at least 75% local crew operating our units. We embrace these requirements and believe it is the only right and sustainable way to go. As part of any new project, we commit to support and increase the development of local knowledge, competence and experience. To accomplish this, we normally start a comprehensive trainee programme specifically for each unit we build, bringing in the trainees early in the process and sending them all over the world to be part of the project before those same trainees evolve into the crew that will operate the unit. This way, the trainees learn all the systems hands-on and are coached from experienced international crew. 

Furthermore, we send crew to educational institutions to earn the necessary licences and certification to meet all the various compliance requirements for each of the positions on board. This also breeds the ground for potential growth and promotions for the local crew during what is normally a 15 to 25-year-long relationship with us. We believe the best way we can attract and retain our crew is to make sure they are well trained and have all necessary licences and certification, a proper on-the-job development programme and a clear and realistic career path. By investing resources, time and money into these aspects, we do realise we run the risk of the crew being picked up by other companies in the industry, but for us, this is a small price to pay to make sure we do as much as we can to do our part in developing more local capacity and knowledge. 

Q. What specific strategies or initiatives has Yinson implemented to address competency and compliance requirements within offshore personnel, especially concerning the push for net zero?

For any new FPSO project, we know it will take years from the start of the project until the FPSO is operational. During this period, the class, flag state, capacity, design, modules, vendors and components will be decided and selected. Based on these deciding factors, we build the competency matrix for each unit which drives the compliance and competency work.  We use a skills and competency management software called Kahuna that tracks, manages and validates all competencies and skills for our personnel to ensure operations are safe and efficient. Once the matrix is ready and fed into Kahuna, we have the starting point for the certification and training efforts needed to make sure our crew complies with all requirements. For example, the latest project — FPSO Agogo for Angola — will be the first in the world with a carbon capture module, which will require some of the positions on board to operate and maintain this module. This will require new skills for these personnel, which again is captured in Kahuna and, as such, followed up on with training and certification. These training and certifications are tracked and validated through different assessment methods in Kahuna. The same approach applies for all new technology that will help us reach net-zero goals in the future. By sitting with all relevant stakeholders in the project phase, digging into the required competence needs for each position on board and reflecting these in Kahuna, we ensure we have a process and system for crew compliance for all regulatory requirements and, at the same time, we are prepared for any new technology we implement on the FPSO.  Ultimately, Kahuna’s solution helps us manage skills data and mobilise resources appropriately, design training programmes for efficient upskilling and workforce development, engage and retain talent and guides our operational decisions in preparation for industry changes. 

Q. What key factors are contributing to the success of Yinson’s partnership with Kahuna in tackling the skills shortage problem? And how vital is collaboration to meeting future challenges in the energy industry’s workforce development?

Before we started our journey with Kahuna and the implementation of its competency management system, we didn’t really have any tool that could manage the competence of all our offshore crew. We depended on excel spreadsheets and systems that dealt with some of the crew, but not all. When we won three new projects for Brazil, we received the necessary kick to deep dive into the challenge we had long identified and seen. We quickly hired a dedicated training and competence resource who took lead in the work of defining and implementing the Kahuna software.

I believe the key factors in our successful partnership were due to the fact that we had dedicated resources, short decision lines, flexibility from both parties on solutions and timeline and lastly an experienced implementation team from Kahuna, which held frequent meetings, followed up consistently and really handheld us through the whole process.

Since deploying this initiative, we have drastically shortened our onboarding and preparedness processes for our fleet workforce population aboard our FPSO vessels — thereby decreasing time to revenue. The programme also improved our regulatory audit process, optimised training spend and enhanced our employee retention rates by allowing individual workers to have control or insight into their career progression.

New technologies that reduce the risks in our operation are being developed and introduced all the time, but the risks involved in operating a potentially very hazardous workplace can never be taken too seriously. For us, partnering with Kahuna has been vital in managing the inherent risk in the industry.

Source: energydigital.com