by Deema Hadrami

The future certainly poses a number of challenges and opportunities for the oil and gas industry. Increased acquisitions in downstream and petrochemicals, new consumer and retail engagement, and the evolving role of technology mean that the skills of tomorrow will undoubtedly be different than the skills of today.

Saudi Aramco’s preparation for these trends is well underway, through deep and comprehensive training and development competencies, leading-edge technological capacity, and strategic data and workforce analytics capabilities.

What is the ‘Future of Work’ in the Oil and Gas Industry?
Hanny Agawani, a 3-D visualization technology developer with Upstream Continuing Excellence (UCE), speaks with Michelle Green, vice president of Human Resources for Downstream and Chemicals with Chevron, during a visit to the Upstream Petroleum Development Center in Dhahran. Along with Nabil K. Al-Dabal, executive director of Human Resources with Saudi Aramco, Green is the co-chair of a task force convened by the World Economic Forum on the “Future of Work in Oil & Gas.” Agawani discussed with Green the use of custom in-house developed apps at UCE that utilize technologies such as touch screens, virtual reality, and augmented reality to assist with the training and development of employees.

Dhahran — The “Future of Work” is a topic on the minds of many leaders globally. What does this future hold?

For many, it represents a threat — outsourcing, uncontrolled artificial intelligence (AI), and robots taking human jobs. For others, the future of work is an opportunity — access to everything everywhere — via an all-encompassing internet while self-driving cars shuttle workers to the office.

Dual Narrative

The media also presents this dual narrative. One article says that AI will, “displace 40% to 50% of our jobs,”1 while another in the same publication says that “AI will create 58 million new jobs.”

To address the uncertainty and complexity of this subject, the World Economic Forum (WEF) recently convened a task force on the “Future of Work in Oil & Gas,” which was co-chaired by Nabil K. Al-Dabal, executive director of Human Resources (HR) with Saudi Aramco, and Michelle Green, Chevron vice president of HR for Downstream and Chemicals.

The meeting featured more than 25 HR executives, academics, and experts from BP, Chevron, Equinor, Repsol, Petronas, National Oilwell Varco, OPTIO, Mercer, the Society of Petroleum Engineers, and ATKearney.

‘Investment Paying Off’

“Saudi Aramco has a long history of investing in our people and our training, and we are very proud to show our peers how this investment is paying off,” said Al-Dabal. “The success of companies in the ‘Future of Work’ will depend largely on the innovation, creativity, and complex problem solving abilities of their people — and this is where we truly demonstrate our excellence.”

The two-day visit was organized by Saudi Aramco’s Organization Consulting Department and focused on key issues integral to preparation for the future of work, including HR strategy, workforce planning and skill transition matrices, and the crucial need for upskilling and reskilling as technology transforms the industry.

An Inside Look at Saudi Aramco

The delegation was introduced to Saudi Aramco’s facilities with an overview of our global operations and the “Future of Jobs @ Saudi Aramco” — an internal team whose goal is to identify the impact of the Digital Transformation Program on the workforce and how to best utilize talent during this process.

The task force also toured the Oil Supply Planning and Scheduling Center and the Upstream Development Center, where they saw Saudi Aramco’s cutting- edge training and development facilities for petroleum engineers, including leading technologies such as “the Cave” and a “rig simulator” that ensure engineers are ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The task force also flew to Shaybah to view operations and Saudi Aramco’s flagship wildlife reserve to better understand our commitment to the environment and sustainability.

‘Toward a Reskilling Revolution’

The second day of the visit, which was held in the Knowledge Tower at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, focused on the road map and action times that will guide leadership in strategy and planning.

WEF representatives began with a discussion on their report “Toward a Reskilling Revolution: Industry-led Action for the Future of Work,” which provided key strategies, innovative frameworks, and data-driven tools to support the business case for investment in training workers for the jobs of the future.

Results of a survey of more than 7,300 business executives, HR leaders, and employees from around the world in nine different industries were presented to the group. Key trends included addressing the growing gap in digital fluency between skilled and unskilled workers, promoting lifelong learning to keep up with the rapid pace of technology, and understanding the varying impact of digitalization among different businesses.

While the oil industry is relatively “skills stable” (70%) compared to other industries such as information and communications technology and financial services, the data still presents a compelling case for a greater introduction of digital capability, data analysis, and emotional intelligence among all employees.

Specialized Academies: A Saudi Aramco Solution

Mohammed T. Alsubaiei, manager of the Local Workforce Development Department (LWDD) with Saudi Aramco, presented on “National Specialized Partnership Academies,” which were highlighted by WEF as a “global best practice” in closing the skills gap.

“Saudi Aramco’s effort to prepare the Kingdom for the ‘Future of Work’ is immense,” said Alsubaiei. “The company, through LWDD, is working to establish additional institutes to build the training capacity for 360,000 participants over 30 academies by 2030. This will form the cornerstone of a strategy to help young Saudis acquire the skills and qualifications to meet energy sector demands.”

Others’ solutions included a “Digital Academy,” which consists of blended learning methods, in-class learning, and e-Learning, to help prepare their global workforce for digital transformation. The academy leans on “social learning,” where people use technology to learn from one another via different methods.

The task force visit closed with multiple commitments from the industry to investment in upskilling/reskilling programs, as well as a pledge to continue to collaborate, find and share best practices, and to broaden the scope to include non-oil and gas industries to maintain a leading role in the future of work.