Energy skills shortfall laid bare

Meg Chesshyre
Friday, April 1, 2011

OPITO, the Aberdeen-headquartered body serving as the focal point for skills, learning and workforce development in the UK energy sector, estimates that over 15,000 new posts will be required over the next five years to deliver UK offshore project plans. Meg Chesshyre reports.

Even as we speak, we are seeing evidence that the demand of appropriately skilled people is outstripping supply,' OPITO managing director David Binnie told breakfast seminars convened in Aberdeen and London last month. ‘A number of vacancies are not being filled, inter-company competition is increasing, and costs are starting to rise. Increasing the supply pool of talent available to the industry is critical if projects are not to be delayed or cancelled,' he warned.

Binnie re-iterated some of the findings of the recent Oil & Gas UK 2011 activity survey, saying that over the next five years, capital spend on existing sanctioned projects will rise to £22 billion, and could rise to £40 billion and as a result production decline could be reduced by 50% to 3% per year. This expenditure is targeted at around: 33 new platforms, 12 major asset modifications, 40 subsea tiebacks and although drilling activity levels look similar to 2010, 2011 plans would see a return to a 10-year rolling average of 60 wells per year.

OPITO embarked on a major data gathering exercise late last year inviting employers nationwide to take part in a comprehensive labour market intelligence survey which was conducted with the help of Robert Gordon University and funded by Skills Development Scotland. In all, over 110 companies contributed, employing over a quarter of the industry's UK workforce.

‘The clear message we received was that the future looks optimistic,' said Binnie, adding that ‘81% of company respondents expect to grow their business over the next five years and 44% forecast significant growth in 2011.' Over 50 % of respondents identified attracting appropriately skilled staff as the number one challenge.

The research commissioned by OPITO and supplemented by a parallel study undertaken by the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) found that 90% of companies are anticipating a rise in international activity. A further 67% expect to see growth as a result of decommissioning and 63% anticipate rising activity in relation to wind power.

ECITB chief executive David Edwards said: ‘The UK needs more technicians, apprentices and engineers to transform our energy infrastructure. A good start has been made, but the rate of recruitment and training needs to double within the next five years to meet the strategic demand.'

The study found that demand for appropriately skilled or experienced staff continues to outstrip supply however with vacancies for engineers (graduate and chartered) and managers the hardest to fill. For these disciplines this is exacerbated by a higher age profile than the industry average.

However, Binnie made the point that there are examples, in some areas of Scotland, where there is an oversupply of engineering graduates. This points clearly to the fact that there is a mismatch between those graduates' skills and what the industry needs, he said. ‘Our evidence suggests that, in some key areas such as engineering, the direct relevance and depth of technical skills and breadth of behavioural skills is lacking.'

With the exception of engineers and managers, the industry appears to have taken steps to address the problems it previously faced in relation to an ageing workforce, Binnie noted. In some workforce areas, a sizeable proportion of employees are aged 16-25. Whilst this injection of younger talent has redressed the age profile it could explain the increased need for experience.

‘This is particularly important as the industry gears up for growth,' he said. ‘Given the difficulties of attracting experience into the industry, a renewed focus on skills development to improve the capability, and hence productivity, of the younger talent seems critical.'

OPITO's ‘Next Generation' programme, developed last year to attract teenagers into the industry, will be rolled out across the country through 2011 and form a key platform from now on. The programme is run by young ambassadors from within the industry, telling their story in their way.

The report says there is a very high level of satisfaction with the current portfolio of oil and gas related qualifications. Few companies report a shortage of any relevant qualifications. However issues relating to the appropriateness of the content emphasises the need for improved technical and behavioural skills from education and academia and supports again the supply gap predominating in skills and experience. OE

‘Managerial staff’, ‘engineers’ and ‘professional engineers’ emerged from the study of workforce vacancies last year as the only roles consistently difficult to recruit across virtually the whole industry.

Concerns about the age demographic are more prominent in some workforce sectors than others. This is how OPITO survey respondents saw the ‘most profound’ skills/knowledge/experience losses due to retirement.

Categories: Subsea Europe

Related Stories

NKT Set to Supply Subsea Cable Systems for Scottish Power Transmission Links

Saipem Hooks BP’s Job in Caspain Sea Off Azerbaijan

EMGS, Velocitas Team Up for OBN Survey in Barents Sea

Current News

Exxon Clash with Chevron Hinges on Control of Hess' Guyana Asset

Turkey to Send Ship to Search for Oil and Gas Off Somalia

Bourbon, Opsealog Form Digital Partnership to Cut OSV Fleet Emissions

TGS Extends Deepwater OBN Campaign in West Africa

Subscribe for OE Digital E‑News