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Lee Clark: Sourcing the skills to engineer the global energy transition

Lee Clark: Sourcing the skills to engineer the global energy transition

October 30, 2023

As Global Resourcing Manager for Elemental Energies, Lee Clark is a man in demand. As the company sets its sights on accelerated growth across decommissioning, energy transition, and responsible upstream oil and gas, sourcing the brightest engineering talent from around the world is no easy task.

As he celebrates his 10th year as part of the Elemental Energies team, having joined as part of Elemental’s acquisition of Senergy Wells, Lee says that it’s an exciting time to be part of the industry with low carbon projects attracting new talent to the industry, the scale of the transition and complex challenges of decommissioning activity, alongside the need to deliver energy security through continued oil and gas production.

Lee’s knowledge and resourcing capabilities have been key to delivering a variety of wells projects around the world. In a diluting skills market, utilising the right skills and expertise to deliver projects and go beyond client expectations is of the utmost importance.

“Over the years, we’ve undertaken some brilliant projects around the world, including in South America, the Middle East, West Africa, and the Mediterranean, which we’ve put a lot of time and resources into, and those projects have been very successful," says Lee.
“We’ve achieved a lot that we can be proud of in the last ten years. Personally, I’m very dedicated to what I do and believe in how much benefit quality resources can bring. Often, I’ve been able to find very particular skill sets at near-impossible deadlines. I’m also proud to have played a role in helping people find jobs, particularly in downturns when they may have been struggling, and I enjoy giving advice to people who are coming through in the industry, as that advice is often not easily available,” he added.

In the latest edition of our Meet the Team series, we asked Lee to reflect on his career to date and got his take on how the current skills landscape is impacting activity across the energy industry.

Can you tell us about how you support the delivery of our global wells projects.

Our internal technical excellence centre hosts a wide range of skills and experience. However, for specific projects we are often required to enhance the team in specialist areas.

Resourcing requirements come in at various stages of projects. Before the project is won, I work on tenders and proposals and where required, ensure we can find the right resources to bid for projects. Then, on contract award, I make sure that we supplement our core in-house team with skilled, experienced specialists who are the ideal fit for the project and meet our client’s needs.

By resourcing the right individuals, we’re able to ensure that projects are delivered safely and efficiently and meet both company and client expectations.

Our projects can be anywhere in the world, so the network we have is extremely vast. Across oil and gas, decommissioning, CCS and geothermal, there’s a broad spectrum of projects which need quality resources.

How did you get into recruitment?

Before I joined Senergy Wells in 2013, I managed an oil and gas recruitment agency for five and a half years and worked in finance recruitment for a national recruitment company. In a way, I fell into recruitment. I had been a debt collector for the council, and I think this is where my analytical and investigative traits come from. As a recruiter, I’m always on LinkedIn conducting in-depth searches and I’ve got a habit of finding needles in haystacks.

In your experience, how can getting the right technical expertise in place help to unlock projects?

Every project has targets to hit, so we make sure that we provide the resources that will achieve those targets. When it comes to wells, engineers aren’t always certain on what’s below the surface, and when you’re drilling there are different factors to take into account which can have a big impact.

If you have an experienced team, they will do everything possible to deliver the project as smoothly as possible. For a consultancy like ours, you’re only ever as good as your last project so it’s essential that you have the very best people in your team to ensure they succeed.

As Elemental Energies expands its support of the energy transition, how do you see the current skills landscape evolving?

There is a huge skills shortage. There’s no getting around that, and there has been for years. I wrote an article back in 2012 highlighting the skills shortage, and it still applies today. The redundancies and lack of investment in bringing new people through at junior levels which stem from the low points in oil and gas are now hitting the industry.

There are not enough people in training positions or coming through the ranks. Unfortunately, as we now tackle the energy transition, oil and gas is seen as an unattractive ‘sunset’ industry.  The need for oil and gas isn’t going away for the foreseeable, but there must be a transition, and people in the industry are on board with that. Well engineering talent is required in CCS, decommissioning, geothermal and mining. The energy sector must do more to communicate the skills the world needs for the transition.

Our expertise is in wells. That wells experience typically comes from oil and gas, and drilling for hydrocarbons. We’re now finding that a lot of people in oil and gas are looking to transition across because that’s what the future is, although this heightens the lack of people available for upstream.

Do low carbon projects have their own resourcing challenges?

In geothermal and CCS, specialist capabilities and interest in those projects are still developing. In oil and gas, people might specialise in certain aspects such as HPHT, and while those projects are still around there will be a shortage of that skillset within geothermal and CCS. However, I think with the new wave of engineers coming through, it seems to be that those low carbon projects are their main interest.

At Elemental Energies, we offer our teams projects across a variety of areas. Rather than being put on a certain campaign or platform for five years, you might work on a land rig, a jack-up rig, deepwater, low carbon and decommissioning, all in the space of a few years, in projects around the world.

How abundant is well engineering expertise today?

The presence of wells expertise has been waning throughout the industry, but we need to do everything we can to generate a resurgence of those skills because wells expertise is crucial. The only way we can do that is by trying to bring people into the industry who want to work in a 'sunrise’ market, whether it’s in low carbon projects, decommissioning, or responsible oil and gas. At Elemental Energies, we are committing to technical excellence, and we’re giving staff the support and training to progress through their careers. It’s easier to do that when you have the backing of a company that will support you.

Although Elemental Energies is a relatively new name, it has brought together two experienced teams with more than 50 years of experience between them. Most of our people have been in the team a long time and we’ve drilled over 2000 wells. That independent experience is extremely valuable to our clients across wells-focused projects.

What do you like to do away from Elemental Energies?

I’m dedicated to work and have always struggled to switch off. However, I now have a soon-to-be two-year-old toddler who keeps me occupied. I try to be active and cycle to work and back to try and keep fit. I also play golf at the weekends.

I’m very active on social media and having been on LinkedIn now for quite a few years, I have a vast connection base. I try not to be just a standard recruiter and instead act as a small source of industry knowledge, sharing insights and helpful articles.

As Lee underlines, the availability of technical expertise will have a major say in the speed and efficiency at which the industry can deliver the energy transition. To ensure the future of that talent, it’s vital that we embrace its role in delivering better solutions across the energy mix and lean into the exciting projects which will bring people back to the industry. By embracing the opportunities of the energy transition, we can not only invest in sustainability, but in exciting careers at the centre of a global transformation.

For the latest opportunities at Elemental Energies, click here.

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