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Offshore Europe 2015: We will only thrive as an industry with the best minds on our side

Charles Woodburn with Professor Brian Cox
Charles Woodburn with Professor Brian Cox

Despite the challenges that the industry is currently facing in relation to the current commodity price, we have continued to see a steady stream of visitors to what remains the largest oil and gas event in Europe.

I’ve always been impressed by what there is to see at Offshore Europe, showing in so many ways the breadth and depths, quite literally, that our industry goes to in order to innovate, push new boundaries and find new solutions. I am pleased that this year’s conference and exhibition has upheld that tradition.

Once again, Offshore Europe has demonstrated our industry at its most innovative, which is why it has been such an honour to be part of it all, both as an exhibitor and, personally, as technical chair.

The sophistication of the equipment, incredible expertise of the people that we employ – and the energy and enthusiasm all collected under one roof – have been extremely motivating. This must give the industry confidence in making the changes that we urgently need to see.

One of the challenges facing the industry is in inspiring the next generation, which was the theme for this year’s show. I hope that the honest and open conversation we have had over the last few days, will lead to real progress in this area.

As part of this focus, the Inspire Programme of activities aimed at younger people, was enhanced and provided a whole range of great events throughout the conference. This included opening our doors, for the first time, to under 16 year olds. It’s vitally important we engage with this age group, before they have chosen their career path, specifically the areas of study at school.

We will only thrive as an industry if we have the very best minds on our side. Key to that is improved engagement with the next generation, so that when they make decisions about their future they are aware of how fascinating the oil and gas business is, and how, for someone who is ambitious, up for a challenge and keen to make a difference, our industry has so much to offer.

In his opening address, Professor Brian Cox talked about the need for universities and industry to engage in a more compelling way – breaking down barriers or stereotypes. He also talked about the importance of telling a story, or framing our challenges in a way that excites and inspires young minds.

This was echoed in the feedback at our Offshore Europe schools programme, where SPE young professionals presented 15 to 17-year olds with a background to their own recent career paths and experiences of entering our industry. This was supported by a clear passion and enthusiasm for what they do, which lies at the very heart of what we are trying to achieve this year.

Offshore Europe has provided a fantastic opportunity to allow more youngsters to see what we do, the amazing technologies the industry has developed and the opportunities for further innovation.

However the current generation of industry professionals, operators, service companies and suppliers must continue this momentum after Offshore Europe. While we don’t have all the answers yet, it’s important we take this dialogue and turn it in to a clear framework that can be delivered by the industry as a whole.

Charles Woodburn is the chief executive of Expro and Offshore Europe’s conference technical repair

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