There is no doubt COVID-19 has paralysed several industries across the world including oil and gas.

The pandemic has forced oil and gas firms to significantly change their operations – many have had to put staff on furlough and the majority now have a large percentage of employees working from home.

Global megatrends such as advances in technology, internationalisation and energy transition and black swan events like COVID-19 are transforming the world of work, changing the skills that people need for their jobs and redefining the jobs that will be needed.

In the age of automation, the oil and gas industry has an ever-increasing need for employees with strong technical skills. Firms are desperate to bring in talented graduates who are up to speed on the latest technological advancements, but with these young minds often drawn to fast-moving tech companies, the war for technical talent wages on. Oil companies can tackle the technical talent gap head on during this ‘downturn’.

The oil industry is embracing the tech revolution. Technological solutions are being applied across all oil operations from geological software to analyse seismic data, to well imaging that sends visual and ultrasound imaging from hundreds of meters below has made previously remote production sights much safer. Robots now inspect the inner surfaces of pipelines and drones patrol oil fields which cut emergency response-times and allow for rapid visual inspection of many locations at once. These high-tech applications require a unique set of skills and training and recruitment programmes are beginning to reflect this. Artificial intelligence, machine learning and other advanced technologies are becoming vital to oil and gas firms seeking to modernise their processes and pull ahead of the competition

Online learning tools are rapidly developing as firms look to advance their employees’ digital skills. This is an opportune time to rethink and retool roles to ensure employees have the right skills for a rapidly changing economy and to invest in training opportunities.

These tools will be particularly beneficial to employees who have been put on furlough, or those whose workloads have been reduced. With many people reporting to have lost a sense of direction during lockdown, having a means to study and further one’s knowledge and skills could help fuel feelings of motivation, connectivity, and engagement.

Bolstering a strong digital skills programme and investing in employee development will have both immediate and future benefits. Not only will an engaged and technically advanced workforce help to propel firms forward in the digital age, it will empower people to work in new ways and attract a new generation of employees incentivised by cutting edge technologies.

Whilst it is too soon to tell what the outcome of COVID-19 will be and when some form of normality will resume, the oil and gas skills landscape will look very different by 2025.

Oil and gas companies need to lead rather than adopt a wait-and-see approach to build up the capabilities of their workforce, drive efficiency, capture value and emerge stronger from this crisis.