North Sea growth threatened by skills ‘perfect storm’


??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Marine and offshore resource and asset management service company C-MAR Group, has highlighted the UK’s escalating skills gap as the most critical issue facing the UK industry today. Speaking as the industry gathered for the Offshore Europe Conference in Aberdeen today, Chief Operating Officer Peter Aylott described how a combination of factors have come together to create a ‘perfect storm’ for the industry.

Mr Aylott said: “The fact that there is a marine and engineering skills gap in the North Sea is widely recognised. Less well known is the size of that gap. The figures are startling – 70% of companies operating in the region now report that they are struggling to recruit. The latest estimates are that we will need 12,000 new staff every year for the next decade.

He continued: “The difficulty is that there’s not just one issue which we need to address. An aging workforce, a lack of students entering the industry, stringent immigration requirements even for skilled workers, and an explosion in demand for specialist crew such as dynamic positioning officers, have all combined to create a perfect storm for the domestic industry. On their own, these issues may be manageable, but together they have created a noose which threatens to throttle the industry’s growth.” 

Mr Aylott went on to address the impact of the widening skills gap on the UK’s attempts to reinvigorate North Sea oil and gas. He commented: “Through last year’s licensing review, the Government has made a major effort to stimulate the domestic oil and gas industry. Sadly, with the current situation, that is going to be a struggle. We have seen wages rise by more than 10% in the last year leading to spiralling costs and a slow-down in production. At a time when the UK’s energy future is in question and unemployment remains high, this is clearly an uncomfortable situation.”

Mr Aylott concluded his comments by highlighting some of the initiatives that he felt could start to resolve the problem. He said: “Government has addressed the issue of demand, now the challenge is to tackle the supply side. We need to do more to help top quality people enter the industry. That means more apprenticeships and more efforts to encourage students to study marine and engineering at Further and Higher Educational levels.  

“More must also be done to encourage promising foreign candidates to come to work in the UK. Of course pay is a factor in that, but it is only part of the solution. Offering the best training, providing a flexible working environment, and delivering challenging and fulfilling opportunities are all important in the end picture.”