This is by nature of being a first progress report on a rather complicated quest which may turn out, after all, to have no end. The related matters of manpower identification, training, recruitment, and career development, with respect to the offshore industry, have proven to be perennial bones of contention to say nothing of the development of predictive techniques.
At the risk of being dubbed an evangelist, however, I am proposing to maintain the hunt for solution, mostly freemasons which developed at the 1973 Offshore Technology Conference. Some-o-f you may remember that, last year at this time, the OTC sponsored a symposium on the general subject: Manpower for Offshore Technology. The particular session in question turned out far more successfully than any of its designers had hoped or guessed.
Panel subjects included: Big industry, new industry, large university, small community college, and government. Approximately 200 people attended the session, on and off, with slightly over 100 present in the room at any one time. Response was intense, enthusiastic, and attended by considerable controversy. General and widespread discussion took place between panel and floor, among attendees on the floor, and among members of the panel.
Finally, to maintain interest at a maximum level, and to permit more individual discussions, I cut the general discussion off arbitrarily after about two hours.
Among the actions which developed during this panel session, participants turned out to be strongly in favor of an employment clearinghouse sponsored and/or carried out in some way by the Offshore Technology Conference or by one of its sponsoring associations. Groups and industries hitherto neglected in such sessions also had their say; a labor union representative strongly advocated participation of big labor in any future conferences of this sort. He made his case effectively and the audience was clearly with him. Representatives from other nations made strong cases for future representation in official capacities by these nations. Many students also made strenuous efforts to present their case for future representation.
The principal issues; i.e., those drawing the most apparent attention, included salaries, specialized talents, and a sort of tug-of-war between those who believe in formal training in specialties versus those who believe in formal training only at general levels, to be succeeded by specialized training on-the-job. Most offshore industry practitioners seemed to feel that most technical recruits should arrive already well grounded in fundamentals, whereas others believed that most of the practical education is best acquired on-the-job. Apparently, it's a matter of degree.
Overall, consensus was unanimous that that panel session, or at least some follow-on, ought not only to be continued next year but possibly perpetuated throughout the lifetime of the OTC itself.
This year, prompted by those panelists' recommendations, the audience reaction and subsequent contact with the Offshore Technology Conference staff, Leonard Mitchell and I decided that we ought at least to probe various sectors of the offshore technology community to determine whether or not there are real opportunities for contributions relating to research and analyses of the manpower situation.