AFPM ’14: US petchems faces technical as well as crafts shortage

01 April 2014 18:51 Source:ICIS News

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (ICIS)--A labour shortage at the technical manager and foreman level threatens the construction and operation of new petrochemical and other facilities on the US Gulf Coast and across the US, a field services provider cautioned on Tuesday.

“The dilution of leadership may be the thing that impacts us the most,” Lowell Wiles, group vice president field services US and Latin America for Jacobs Engineering, said during a panel discussion at the International Petrochemical Conference.

“It’s a shortage of technical professionals as well.”

Most of the projects that are going to be impacted by the shortage are in the early stages of planning and construction, and companies have to plan for a “tsunami” that may or may not come, Wiles said. The labour issue is expected to affect the costs and timing of construction projects on the US Gulf Coast and elsewhere in North America, and possibly the costs of eventually running those facilities.

Companies are trying to benchmark against norms that may or may not apply. “There are some real challenges on this subject,” he added.

Both producing companies and contractors have to take the initiative to develop robust workforce development plans, Wiles said. And he warned that companies and contractors will have to pay more for their projects but in different ways.

Contractors have to invest in the craft workforce, he said, and have good modular strategies that are expected to be more cost-effective than the traditional approaches to construction.

On the owner’s side it is a question of companies having effective workforce programmes. "Don’t put all the risks on contractors,” he urged.

Hosted by the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), the IPC continues through Tuesday.

By Nigel Davis