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What's it like to work abroad as a contractor?

Posted by: Mark Burslem
02/10/20

WRS offers a suite of services including permanent and contract recruitment, global mobility, executive search and consultancy and managed services. This benefits our clients who can rely on us for a complete package of workforce solutions. We offer a consultancy approach, working with you and your business to understand your specific requirements and creating a bespoke solution tailored for you. Our suite of services is also very helpful to the contractors who find work through us, as we help set them up in their new role and assist with any travel, visa and tax issues that relocation poses.

In this blog, we explore what it’s like to embark on a career that involves working and living abroad. We caught up with two of the contractors who have found work through us, Kevin Godden and Iwan Jones, to understand how WRS supports them and what life is like in Europe during these challenging times.

It’s a rainy day in the North West of England where our WRS HQ is based, but it’s bright and sunny in glorious Rome where Iwan Jones, Engineering Manager with Worley, is currently living. He’s used to unseasonably good weather having lived in various locations such as Georgia, Turkey, the Middle East and India. In fact, he prefers being out of the UK during the winter months as it helps with his asthma. It’s not his first trip to Italy and, knowing the language, this helped him to settle into his new role with Worley in Rome quickly.

I ask him about life in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Italy was one of the first European countries to experience a spike of cases and initiated lockdown-style restrictions earlier this year before other countries followed suit. He reassures me that infection rates are under control in Rome and life is operating as normal, aside from the requirement to wear masks on public transport and in the shops.

It’s a similar story in Madrid, Spain, where Kevin Godden is based. Kevin is working for Worley in Madrid as a Procurement Management.

“Madrid has managed the pandemic very well in my opinion,” Kevin explains. “There’s certain areas in the city that you need to have a permit to enter and leave. The city is well policed and it’s been a requirement to wear face masks for some time. Bars and restaurants, like most major European cities, have restrictions and you must book a table. The metro is less busy with many people working from home, which has made getting into work a lot easier as I take public transport into the office.”

Kevin is working for Worley in an office-based role and both him and Iwan have found that their working week is split between home working and office working. This is positive news for the oil and gas industry which appears to be weathering the storm relatively well, albeit with some reductions in staff and operations.

There is no doubt that working abroad at the moment poses a unique set of challenges and concerns. I am interested in understanding how contractors have managed being separated from family and friends during this particularly worrying time.

“My children have definitely inherited my adventurous nature,” Iwan tells me. “We are all used to me working abroad as I have been doing it for years. In fact, my children have gone round the world themselves, to the US, China and Europe.”

It’s a similar story for Kevin over in Madrid.

“No matter where I’ve worked, family have always been able t o come over and visit me,” he says.

So, where’s the best place to work, I ask Kevin?

“Russia is the best place I’ve worked. I’ve worked in Moscow and it’s like living in London but it’s a lot safer and very cosmopolitan. I’ve also worked in Serbia and in the Arctic and they’ve been unbelievable experiences, I’ve seen some amazing things that not a lot of people have been able to see.”

Embarking on a career in the oil and gas industry means committing to a life of travel and regular relocation. It’s necessary to embrace this in order to thrive in the industry, and clearly both Kevin and Iwan have. Once you adapt to this way of working and living, the benefits are enormous. You have opportunities to explore the world that most of won’t ever have, and the work is exciting and lucrative. You’ll have the chance to be part of multi-billion-pound international projects utilising cutting edge technology.

Both Iwan and Kevin tell me that the colleagues they work with are from all over the world, each one skilled and experienced in their profession. This leads me on to talking to Iwan about the number of women who work on site.

“The number of women in the industry is increasing,” he says. “I began my career in the 80's when it was very male dominated.”

Iwan goes on to explain that, because women have only joined the oil and gas industry in more recent years, it’s unlikely that women will have the same level of experience as a man who has been involved in it for longer. However, companies are consciously recruiting women and ensuring that opportunities are open for them, both on shore and off. New oil and gas rigs and vessels, as well as existing ones which are being refurbished, have accommodation for women. This would have been unheard even a few years ago and shows the progress that has been made.

Kevin and Iwan have been supported by WRS and have positive things to say about the experience. Their on-boarding process has largely been handled by WRS’s Contractor Care Manager, Richard Baillie-Gray. He has assisted them with in-country tax queries and, for Iwan, this was particularly valuable.

“WRS and the accountant in Italy I spoke to helped me to weight up the pros and cons of the job and understand how the tax worked.”

We’re delighted to have been able to assist both Iwan and Kevin in securing the next step on their successful and exhilarating careers. If you have a desire to work overseas or, if you’re an experienced oil and gas professional seeking a new opportunity, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on 0161 926 2525 or register your CV with us.

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