Oil industry faces labour shortage

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The rapid recovery of Norway’s oil industry is suddenly leaving some offshore oil and oil service companies short of workers. State welfare and employment agency NAV reports that a labour shortage is beginning to resurface in several sectors, with the decline in unemployment greatest among engineers and information technology experts.

Development of new offshore oil fields like Johan Sverdrup has created demand for construction of drilling rigs like this one and other platforms and offshore infrastructure, and that creates jobs. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Unemployment in Rogaland County on Norway’s West Coast has declined to just 3.5 percent, and that number includes people already taking part in job placement programs. “Gross unemployment is probably under 3 percent,” Truls Nordahl, a senior adviser for NAV, told local newspaper Rogalands Avis (RA).

NAV reports that the number of people registered as unemployed in Rogaland is down 26 percent from the number at this time last year. He told RA that unemployment is now set to “cross a magic line,” when we go from having an oversupply of workers to a shortage of workers.”

Looking abroad
The shortage isn’t critical yet, but NAV and individual companies now need to start looking abroad for workers. “The oil branch is reporting a need for help,” Nordahl said. NAV has thus geared up its so-called Eures Network, to find the labour and skills needed in other countries.

Eures is a cooperation between the EU and EØS/EEA (European Economic Area) countries, the latter of which Norway is a member, that helps facilitate free flow of labour within the area. Nordahl equated it to a job fair of sorts: “We often have employers who can meet actual job candidates abroad.”

Demand is also rising for electricians, health care workers and those skilled to work in the construction industry. Most of the jobs on offer, however, are not permanent positions. “Most are temporary jobs,” Nordahl said, noting that oil service companies stung by the industry’s downturn when oil prices collapsed in 2014 are still coming out of a restructuring phase. “They’re not earning enough money yet that they dare to offer permanent jobs, even though they want to. We also hear that that companies are somewhat afraid that their restructuring and cost-cutting efforts will stop if they have to compete for new workers.”

Good news for the economy
It’s nonetheless good news for Western Norway, which was hardest hit by the oil industry downturn, that things are going better, said Stein Racin Grøden of the Forus Business Park.”Folks are getting new jobs at good pay, companies are doing better and you get money back in circulation.”

State statistics bureau SSB (Statistics Norway) also reported this week that the oil industry paid NOK 46 billion in taxes during the first half of this year, up 5.3 percent from last year, another sign of the industry’s recovery.

More than 40,000 jobs disappeared in Norway after oil prices fell and activity slowed dramatically. Industry trade association Norsk olje og gass recently conducted a survey of its members that suggests companies need around 850 new workers this year, plus 160 trainees. Few expect all the jobs lost to come back, because of all the restructuring and efficiency programs imposed in the past three years.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund