Matching the dynamics

By Noah Brenner, Upstream, 21 November 2014, Page 22


Mark Charman founded maritime recruitment specialist Faststream at age 27, planning to have perhaps two or three employees in a boutique business.

Now, 15 years later, Faststream has become one of the largest recruiters for offshore work with about 140 employees and offices on three continents, including specialised teams that focus on very specific jobs such as those crewing liquefied natural gas carriers.

Charman sat down with Upstream at Faststream’s Houston office to give his views on the tightest job markets, and the impact of declining oil prices on the job market.


Upstream: What are some of the positions where industry is short on talent — what is most in demand?

Charman: The marketplace is hot overall, incredibly hot, and in many sectors there are more jobs than candidates.

Some of the hottest sectors right now are around design, construction and operation of offshore assets, FPSOs, drilling and offshore production.

At the moment there is just a desperate shortage of people.

There are some real pinch points around naval architecture for example, the guys to actually do the design work for these projects.

In the US, at the moment, what we are starting to see is LNG.

The US market was originally set out to be an LNG importing business and it’s going to move to be an LNG exporting business.

With these new terminals that are coming online, what we see is companies want to hire in people with LNG experience to work on those projects — they don’t exist in America. Its going to be a real bottleneck to the LNG market in the US.


Upstream: Can’t the companies bring in expertise from abroad?

Charman: It is really difficult to get those visas to get people in, even though we are talking about highly skilled, highly in demand engineering skill sets. That is a bottleneck that I think will inhibit the growth of the sector.

It’s going to be difficult for industry. If they are not able to get those people I can only see that they are going to package that work up and send it abroad in packages.

They will package up the design and engineering piece and send it to places like Asia because all the people they can get are too expensive.


Upstream: What are companies doing to compete?

Charman: In the last 12 months, there has been a much greater prevalence of sign-on bonuses — golden hellos — to attract people into organisations.

In recent years prior we hadn’t seen that but for niche areas we are starting to see golden hellos as companies are thinking ‘how are we going to get these people on board’. I’m not sure that will continue, but I think it probably will.


Upstream: How will continued low oil prices impact hiring?

Charman: The reality is nobody knows — all it is doing is creating uncertainty. But if you look at the lifecycle times of these big projects, they are so long that this is a blip on the graph, if you like, in the middle of a project.

The companies are engaged with those projects already — those projects are under way and they’ve committed to future projects. So they need the people to run those projects.

All it does is change the dynamic of the market place. Are we going to hire someone on contract or on direct hire?


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