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How will a shortage of Technology Experts impact your business?

Posted On: Jan. 14, 2013

At Streamline, as technology experts in an industry that is full of companies struggling to find technology experts, we seem to be in an enviable position in the industry. A recent Calgary Herald article “IT worker shortage has serious implications for Canada” discusses the demand for Information Technology people and suggests that while the need for skilled experts is sky-rocketing, the number of people trained in IT is slipping. For the industry as a whole, this means that while we will have growing demand for our services, we have a supply problem that we need to fully understand and then address. So why is it that the need for highly skilled technology workers is greater than ever, and yet there are fewer people pursuing this career path?

In 2012, we asked this question in our survey about the future of SCADA, and we received some responses that may hint to why we are seeing a shortage of technology skilled resources in the industry. Indeed we found that the issue discussed in the Calgary Herald article was not just an IT issue, but was a more general technology concern for the oil and gas industry in Alberta. We found that people in technology jobs were feeling undervalued across the board. Not only did they report feeling left out of strategic conversations and corporate decision-making, they also reported feeling that the companies they worked for treated them as a necessary evil or an afterthought when moving forward with projects. They said that companies didn’t want to commit to technology or the people who knew the technology because they are seen only as an expense and not as a valuable strategic enabler. Most importantly, they were frustrated at being ignored when it came to conversations about innovation and improvement. People want to feel valued and if they don’t, are they going to recommend that their children follow their career path? Many of the experts we surveyed hesitated to be fully forthcoming about what they did for a living at parties because of the negative perception of their jobs in the oil and gas industry and felt incredibly over worked and undervalued.

This was not a feeling exclusive to only one group of technology experts and was brought up consistently by experts in all technology sectors from communication, software development and automation. Interestingly, among the automation resources we surveyed, there was a lot of discussion about the desperate need for skilled people in general across the industry and a belief that technology could help reduce the number of people required to operate assets (plants and wells) around Alberta. Yet at the same time, they perceived a real hesitancy in most companies to commit to the cost of using technology to a greater extent. The human resource shortage of the future is well-known, but companies don’t seem to want to invest in the technologies or people that could help limit the impact of the problem. Often investing in technologies is done half-heartedly on older technology with no follow-up investment in people and process changes which further compounds the problem.

For the last few years, we at Streamline have been helping companies understand that skilled technology workers will soon be available only at a premium. We’ve been warning companies to find some good technology leaders, to keep them close and to invest in technology. We understand that it might seem self-serving for a technology focused company to make this type of recommendation, but it is something we feel is realistic and necessary. For example, plants that are being built now in Alberta will not be able to be operated by skilled, experienced people unless the industry invests more in technology now. But it’s not the technology alone that will fill this gap. Companies also need to invest in the people who know the technology and involve them, listen to them, work with them and train new resources so they’re part of the company and industry when they are needed the most.

By the way, to learn more about the survey and the Future of SCADA Summary white paper give us a call.

About Streamline Control Solutions

Streamline Control Solution Corp. is a multi-functional firm composed of energy industry experts with over three decades of combined experience in Management, Operations, and IT functions. Our experts have amalgamated their respective knowledge to create solutions that connect these functions, bridging gaps within your business process and thereby streamlining your system processes, data acquisition and data flow requirements.

Streamline Control Solutions | 403.879.2361 | Calgary, Alberta | www.streamlinecontrol.com

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