Industry Research into Oil and Gas Skills
Thursday, October 31, 2013
John McDonald, managing director of OPITO UK

The most thorough analysis of the North Sea oil and gas skills landscape ever undertaken will commence next week with nine of the U.K.’s leading energy, business and skills organizations involved. The major study is the first to examine in depth exactly how many people and what skills are needed in order to address the critical shortage in the industry both now and in the future.

Senior representatives from more than 1,000 operators, contractors and organizations throughout the oil and gas supply chain will be asked to share detailed information about the profile of their workforce both on and offshore, and their projected skills needs for the future.

This significant and vital research will be shared across the industry and education providers, government agencies, other industry bodies and stakeholders, providing the foundation for the first ever national skills strategy and ensuring the sector’s current and future workforce have the necessary skills to fulfill the potential of the U.K.’s most prosperous industrial sector.

The study is being led and managed by OPITO – the skills for oil and gas organization – on behalf of industry and in partnership with Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, Decom North Sea, the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB), Energy North, the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) – North Sea Chapter, the Offshore Contractors Association (OCA), Oil & Gas UK and Subsea UK.

“Skill shortages have been identified as one of the biggest challenges facing the industry and while we have seen a number of reports authored over the last two or three years, variations in the findings in this field have caused confusion for industry and training providers.

“This survey will provide the definitive source of industry recognized information on the size and demographics of the labor market from across the sector and partner organizations to ensure better understanding of the workforce profile,” said John McDonald, managing director of OPITO UK.

“This robust and reliable study will give greater clarity of specific gaps and allow the industry to target activities to address them to meet the long term demand for a skilled workforce. Ultimately this research will allow us, as an industry, to priorities our activity in a targeted way in order that we might build the workforce we need to succeed in the future.”

Business and Energy Minister Michael Fallon said, "The U.K. is a hub for oil and gas expertise, driven by the ingenuity and skills of its workforce. However, we can’t be complacent. The shortage of skills in the sector is major threat to its overall competitiveness and one of the biggest challenges that the industry faces today.

"Further understanding of the skills base is an important element of the ongoing work of our joint oil and gas industrial strategy to create high quality jobs and encourage new investment for growth."

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said, “This research study will provide a wealth of information on the skills requirements of the oil and gas industry and will support our on-going work to ensure that education providers understand current and future industry demand and are working collaboratively with industry to develop the skilled workforce now and for the future.

“As a sector that is now estimated to support 450,000 jobs across the U.K., of which around 50 per cent are in Scotland I am delighted that industry and stakeholders are working together to ensure that the skills issue within the industry does not impact future growth.”

The research will fully profile the oil and gas industry across the U.K. by looking at the skills throughout the current workforce and the different roles that exist. It will identify key industry influences moving forward, including external factors as well as structural changes, ask employers how they expect their organizations to grow in the next two years, the specific jobs roles that will be most in demand and what barriers they have experienced in recruiting suitable people to fill these gaps.

Bill Murray, chief executive of the Offshore Contractors Association, said, "We have, as an industry, been talking for many years about the need to invest in training and skills development. The challenge ahead for the oil and gas industry is not only that we face a shortage of skilled workers needed to realise our potential, but also that there is significant competition for this investment right across the energy sector.”

Dr. Alix Thom, Oil & Gas UK’s employment and skills issues manager, said, “Industry, Government, education and training providers require accurate and comprehensive labor market intelligence to shape a streamlined skills strategy for the future which is why Oil & Gas UK is pleased to be part of this important study.”

ECITB’s director of quality and development, Nigel Spencer, said, “The ECITB is proud to be working in partnership with other industry organizations to produce this vital labor market intelligence report for the upstream oil & gas industry. The findings will provide industry with much needed insight into the skills challenges ahead and will enable the ECITB to work in collaboration with other skills bodies to develop training interventions and qualifications to help secure a highly skilled upstream oil and gas workforce, now and in the future.”

Decom North Sea operations manager Sarah Hillyear said, “As the decommissioning activity ramps up over the coming years, with around £1 billion expected to be spent per annum, it is important that we have an understanding of the future skills requirements related to this activity. It is also important to understand where the competition for these skilled people will be and where there might be capacity issues in the future.

“Decom North Sea is therefore delighted to be part of this joint study, ensuring that we have a clear understanding of future skills requirements for the oil and gas industry as a whole and identifying where there may be potential capacity issues which need to be addressed.

“The decommissioning sector offers an exciting career with many business opportunities. To encourage more people to join the industry, we must stimulate better training and skill transfer from other sectors such as nuclear decommissioning, ex-military personnel, marine and salvage industries. By participating in this study, we look forward to researching the skills needed throughout the entire oil and gas industry, particularly in decommissioning.”

Ian Couper, Chief Executive at Energy North said, “Currently there is a wide range of wildly varying statistics in the public domain pertaining to future skills requirements in the north’s energy industry. Energy North’s role is to ensure that businesses in the Highland and Islands and the north east of Scotland have the support, insight and resources to grow and prosper as valued members of the energy industry and supply chain. In order to do this, we need a definitive answer to the questions – what are the skills requirements of the future? Where are the gaps? What is the solution?

“Energy North welcomes the launch of the LMI project which aims to answer these questions once and for all, and to monitor progress made in solving the skills dilemma over the coming years. We very much look forward to working with everyone involved and ensuring that the valuable information it produces is used for the benefit of the industry and the economy as a whole.”

John Atkinson, North Sea Regional Director of the IADC said, "Members of the North Sea Chapter of IADC are pleased to be involved in the industry led Oil and Gas Labor Market Intelligence Survey initiative as we have no doubt this will prove to be an important tool in our forward planning with respect to skills requirements for our sector of the industry in the immediate and longer term timescale.”

Neil Gordon, chief executive of Subsea UK said, “Subsea UK is pleased to be working in partnership with a number of stakeholders, including OPITO, as part of the Labor Market Intelligence consortium. We welcome this OPITO-led LMI Survey which will not only provide a comprehensive overview of the industry’s current skills market, but will outline how we can work together to address the personnel shortage our sector faces.

“This survey will act as a key tool for measuring our success in meeting the industry’s requirements, but more importantly, it will indicate the challenges our members face when looking to both build and develop their workforce. Having a single, collaborative, and authoritative voice is vital as we seek to equip both our current and future workforce with the skill set necessary to support one of Britain’s most important sectors.”

Field work will commence on November 4 by information services group Experian. The launch of the results will take place early 2014.

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