How to Survive “The Great Crew Change”

In the oil and gas industry, nearly 50% of the workforce will retire in the next five to seven years, and there aren’t enough younger workers coming in to fill their place. This is being called “The Great Crew Change.”

But it isn’t just oil and gas — the same thing is happening more widely in the energy industry, where more than 70% of energy companies anticipate a talent shortage between now and 2020, and in manufacturing, where almost 2 million jobs will go unfilled over the next decade.

So what can you do? A recent article in Valve Magazine highlighted how valve manufacturers and distributors, and the VMA, can help by providing training for plant personnel. Here are a few other strategies for surviving the Great Crew Change.

Start planning now

The skills gap is already affecting companies, and the problem will only compound. Gardner Carrick of the Manufacturing Institute told U.S. News, “Most companies recognize they need to really have a pipeline built before that retirement crunch hits. What we’re seeing today is kind of a dry run for what we’re really going to have to deal with five to seven years down the road.”

Even if you aren’t experiencing a skills gap right now, it’s essential that you have a plan in place for that eventuality rather than waiting for the problem to become unsolvable.

Institute in-house training programs

The Great Crew Change will impact your ability to find experienced workers as well as new ones. You can protect yourself against this loss by making sure your experienced workers pass on their knowledge before they retire.

Identify a chain of succession for your most crucial positions and institute an in-house training program so your resident experts can pass on their knowledge.

Document employee knowledge

Another way to ensure knowledge stays within your company is to document it. A situation we commonly encounter is that a facility loses its valve data after an employee leaves. You can do a full plant survey to recreate this information, but a better plan is not to lose it in the first place.

Before employees are set to retire, have them document information that is essential to their jobs so that their knowledge doesn’t leave when they do.

Put effort into attracting Millennials

The reason the Great Crew Change is such a concern is because for every two people who retires, only one person is expected to enter the industrial workforce. Energy companies and manufacturers can help avert this situation by doing more to appeal to Millennials.

This generation is different from the ones that came before, and they have vastly different needs and expectations of the work environment. Check out this article on five ways to attract a Millennial workforce from

Hire more women

While energy and manufacturing have traditionally been male-dominated, that situation is changing rapidly. Women still make up only 27% of the manufacturing workforce, but in the first quarter of 2013, nearly half of positions added in the oil and gas sector were filled by women.

According to Deloitte’s 2015 Women in Manufacturing study, companies aren’t doing a very good job of attracting or retaining female employees. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts women to comprise the majority of total labor force growth through 2018, so companies that don’t actively work to attract them will miss out on a major opportunity to fill vacancies. Here are some best practices for how to attract and retain women, from GE.

The Great Crew Change is coming. But by starting to plan now, encouraging employees to pass on their knowledge, and tapping into untapped workforce populations, you can minimize the effect of the coming skills gap on your organization.

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