UK oil industry needs 25,000 new workers within six years, says skills report

A new report sets out that the UK oil and gas industry needs to attract 25,000 workers in the next six years, including thousands in brand new roles.

Research from skills body Opito and Robert Gordon University (RGU) states 4,500 workers will be needed by 2025 in roles that don’t currently exist, like automation and data science.

The “skills landscape” also sets out the steps needed from employers and academia to achieve this, including upskilling staff, technology-focussed apprenticeships and recruiting a more diverse workforce.

It comes following several years of job cuts for the UK sector in wake of the oil price drop in 2014-15.

Last May, Opito said 40,000 people would need to be brought into the industry within 20 years.

Its latest report is focued on shorter-term demand out to 2025.

The authors said the goals are consistent with Vision 2035, the industry’s shared goal to add a generation of production life to the North Sea and double supply chain opportunities in the UK and internationally.

Paul de Leeuw, director of RGU’s Oil and Gas Institute said: “We have had some very challenging years off the back of the drop in oil price.

“We know that a lot of organisations really cut back their headcount and we need more people to do the work that’s out there.

“We’re looking ahead to Vision 2035, this is completely consistent with that, and we think this is the right time to have this conversation.

“We’re confident we can attract those workers, provided Vision 2035 is achieved.”

The majority of those currently in the sector are expected to remain in the next six years, emphasising the need for upskilling staff.

Technology and data skills like analytics and remote working are expected to have the widest potential for upskilling across the industry.

Mark Cullens, director of strategic engagement at Opito said: “One of the findings is that technology is a key driver for the industry and will have major implications over the next five or six years.

“Around 80% of people in the industry will still be working within it by 2025 so there will be a big impact for reskilling of people.

“Management are largely behind the adoption of technology and there is a bit of repurposing needed around training budgets to this agenda.”


Jake Molloy, regional organiser with RMT, said the report’s message is in contrast to what the union has heard from oil and gas employers.

Mr Molloy said the call to create new roles is positive but this “doesn’t add up” with employers’ concerns.

He said: “What we’re hearing from employers is that it is costing more and more for workers. We’re talking about pension levies, apprenticeship levies and insurance costs and everything else.

“They’re complaining that they can’t afford to people and they’ve got to let them go because employment costs are going up, and yet here we have academia telling us we’re going to need more people.

“It is time industry and government sat down and sorted it out once and for all, otherwise we risk losing a whole generation of potential new employees coming in.”

According to Oil and Gas UK, the total number of people directly and indirectly employed by the industry, as well as those supported by its spending, fell from 463,900 in 2014, to 282,700 last year.

Mr Molloy said cuts during the downturn mean it is unsurprising that the industry is now facing a shortage.

He added: “The news that these jobs are going to be created has to be welcomed.

“However, our concern is that we’re not seeing any real effort on the part of industry to engage workers that are still at risk of redundancy, still losing jobs.

“We’ve been saying for some time that rather than using the blunt instrument of redundancy, we should be looking at other means like flexible working to keep skills within the industry.”

His colleague John Boland of the Unite union added: “We always said the level of cuts during the downturn were an overreaction, and would lead to future skills shortages.

“During the downturn and redundancies that followed it was sad to see so many highly skilled workers say that they would not come back into the oil and gas industry, even if things improved.”

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