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Recruitment in the UK Oil and Gas Industry

Recruitment in the UK Oil and Gas Industry

It’s well known that during the next decade the oil and gas industry faces a & lsquo;great crew change’. About 50 percent of skilled engineers will be eligible to retire and while the UK is home to some of the best technical and engineering experts in the world, demand is far outstripping supply and we’re facing a talent crisis.

Although the UK and Europe as a whole has suffered in recent years from maturing assets, several new discoveries have been made in the North Sea and this, together with the advancement of technology which prolongs field life, is boosting productivity.

At the same time, following the introduction tax changes designed to encourage growth, investment levels in the UK continental shelf are at a 30-year high with investments totalling almost &pound100bn now in companies’ plans, according to trade body Oil & Gas UK. Significant investments include Statoil’s &pound4.5 billion Mariner oil field project – reportedly the largest new offshore development in the UK in more than a decade – and Talisman Energy’s &pound1.6 billion Montrose Area Redevelopment project.

With this boom in activity, 15,000 jobs are expected to be created in the oil and gas sector over the next five years, according to UK government figures. However, with a lack of new talent coming through the ranks, North Sea growth could be hindered.

Outside of the North Sea, the UK is also trying to cash in on the worldwide shale gas revolution. A recent report by the Institute of Directors’, Getting Shale Gas Working, states that investment in the UK shale gas sector could peak at $3.7 billion a year, supporting 74,000 jobs – not just for geologists and drilling specialists, but for construction workers, truck drivers, cement manufacturers, water treatment experts, and people working in local retail and service industries, with roles being created in the parts of the country that need them most.

Filling the talent gap

With so much investment flooding into the UK oil and gas industry and so many new projects in the pipeline, the skills shortage poses a very serious problem. While there is no such thing as a & lsquo;quick fix’ to addressing the talent shortages that many companies face, with increased investment in education and training and by building stronger partnerships with the government and industry bodies, we can start to fill the gap.

The oil and gas industry must work closely with educational establishments and institutions to educate the younger generation about the amazing careers available working as an oil and gas engineer. Schemes such as the Institute of Chemical Engineer’s Whynotchemeng campaign help to promote the oil and gas industry to students at an age where they’re making key decisions about their future. We need more of them.

In addition, the sector must boost the number of graduate engineering schemes and invest in entry-level training or re-training in order to boost the oil and gas workforce. Earlier this year, the government gave

&pound7 million to Newcastle University to establish the Neptune National Centre for Subsea and Offshore Engineering, which will help produce the highly skilled graduates needed to address the skills shortage. A new facility has also been opened at Expro, an offshore and technology services specialist in Aberdeen, which show the industry is working hard to address the talent challenge.

Cross training from other industries such as power and infrastructure could also help the sector find the skills that it needs. Alongside this, more could be done to tap the military talent pool as ex-servicemen and women tend to have systems and project management experience, a strong eye for detail and the ability to follow processes and procedures closely, all qualities which are highly sought after in the oil and gas industry. As well as offering hard skills such as logistics, telecoms and engineering, service leavers also possess a range of soft skills including being able to think on their feet and adapt quickly to new environments, crucial in the ever-changing oil and gas sector.

When you have the workers you need, you must keep them. Sophisticated employee retention strategies – including attractive benefits packages – are another consideration for the industry, but again, they come at a price. Thankfully, oil and gas can afford to make that investment in order to reap the rewards of being one of the most desirable industries on the planet to work in.

Global mobility

In order to fuel the North Sea boom, companies should be able to boost our home-grown workforce by bringing in expertise  from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) where absolutely necessary. Failure to do so could threaten future energy projects.

As the lifecycle of an oil and gas project moves from the conceptual design stage through to operations, different skillsets are required. In order to meet shorter term staffing requirements, energy companies need to take on skilled contract staff, who in turn move from project to project around the world depending on where their specialist talent is required.

The government has restricted the number of visas available to people from outside the EEA in a bid to reduce net migration. We recognise the importance of boosting national employment levels. However, currently we don’t have enough engineers in the UK to drive vital energy projects.

Just last year, Prime Minister David Cameron described the North Sea as a “global energy hub”, in order to maintain this position we must have access to the very best people in the business, wherever in the world they are from.

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