UK North Sea ‘needs 40,000 workers in next 20 years’

A new report into the workforce dynamics of the UK oil and gas workforce indicates that more than 40,000 new people will need to be recruited into the industry over the next 20 years, including 10,000 in roles that do not exist today.

The new areas will include data science, data analytics, robotics, material science, change management and remote operations.

The UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) Workforce Dynamics Review by energy skills body OPITO in partnership with Robert Gordon University’s (RGU) Oil and Gas Institute, assesses the changing skills requirements for the industry over the next 20 years.

The UK’s Oil and Gas Authority in collaboration with trade body Oil and Gas UK has created a new vision for the industry called Vision 2035, based on maximising economic recovery from the UKCS and a doubling of the international footprint of the UK based supply chain.

Modelling different scenarios, the report shows that while total employment will fall over time “if the industry achieves its ambitions around Vision 2035 and the lower carbon transition, tens of thousands more posts can be safeguarded and around 10,000 people will need to be recruited in emerging digital roles that don’t exist today in data analytics, data science, robotics and remote operations.”

John McDonald, CEO of OPITO said: “As the industry emerges from the downturn, it is crucial that we take a longer term look at the future UK oil and gas skills requirements.

“A new skills strategy will help us to take action now to prepare for emerging roles and ensure the existing workforce is being given opportunities to up-skill.

“Whilst total employment will fall over the next two decades, this will be a more gradual process than the sharp hit experienced over the last three years.

“If the industry can work together to achieve ambitions around production and energy diversification, tens of thousands more roles can be safeguarded and our industry will continue to be one of the key industrial sectors in the UK for years to come.”

Professor Paul de Leeuw, Director of the RGU Oil and Gas Institute, said: “Technology, innovation and the transition to a lower carbon future will re-shape the sector.

“With over 40,000 people potentially entering the industry over the next 20 years and with a substantial proportion of the workforce to be up-skilled, there is a critical role for training providers, vocational institutes and universities to help future-proof the sector and to ensure the UK retains its reputation as a leading energy basin.”

The report said 80,000 workers are likely to retire or leave the sector for other reasons by 2035.

The report said that following the downturn between 2014 and 2017, the industry lost more than 70,000 direct and indirect jobs — a decline rate of 10% per year.

However, on the basis that the industry can achieve the goals around Vision 2035 and the wider energy diversification, the report said the industry should be able to sustain 130,000 roles in 2035, compared to around 170,000 in 2017 — a decline rate of less than 1.5% per year.

Oil & Gas UK chief executive Deirdre Michie said: “This insightful report shows while overall direct employment is likely to fall, we will need over 40,000 new people in the industry to deliver Vision 2035 and to continue to diversify in response to the energy transition.

“Vision 2035 will enable us to extend the productive life of the basin, double our share in global supply chain markets and support our UK-wide workforce.”