Subsea Expo 2015: Guest Editor Neil Gordon says we still need a fresh flow of talent

Neil Gordon
Neil Gordon, chief executive of Subsea UK

As the cherry pickers come in to remove the ROVs and the weary exhibitors dismantle their stands and pack up their sales brochures, I am sitting down to write my final editorial for Energy Voice.

Subsea Expo is over for another year but it’s an event we will not forget. With the oil and gas industry facing one of the toughest times in our history, Europe’s largest annual event focused on subsea broke all records.

Over 6,500 delegates attended the show and with 8,500 visits, indicating many of them came back for a second time over the three days.

This year’s event has surpassed all expectations. We attracted more delegates, more international visitors, more exhibitors, more speakers and more young people than ever before, underlining the importance of our sector to the UK and to the global oil and gas industry.

The UK subsea market, worth almost £9 billion, has demonstrated its resilience, pioneering spirit and desire to work together to ensure that we have a strong future in the North Sea and our leading position in the global market is maintained.

The innovation and technology on show at the exhibition underlined why our supply chain is envied around the world and the interest from overseas visitors emphasised our unparalleled expertise.

And isn’t it ironic that in the current climate more people from within the operating companies attended than ever before.

Previous shows have attracted strong support from the oil companies in terms of sponsorship and conference presentations but it has been harder to attract serious numbers from the companies to the exhibition.

It’s a sign of the times that these end-users of subsea products and services were present in significant numbers to explore the innovation and technology on offer.

The last day of Subsea Expo is largely dedicated to young people and there was no shortage of school pupils, students and job seekers at the show today eager to find out what opportunities there are in this exciting sector, despite the negative headlines surrounding oil and gas.

In recent years, it’s all been about skills: the need to attract, develop and retain talent and the debate over how many new people are required to sustain the subsea sector.

With the sharp decline in oil price, the focus has shifted from skills to efficiencies. However, it is vital that companies continue to invest in ensuring they have the right resource to take advantage of the opportunities the current challenges present and to be in a position to grow when the oil price picks up again.

We still need a flow of fresh talent and we cannot simply turn off the tap and expect the younger people we are trying to encourage into the industry to be available and excited about this industry once we are ready to turn the tap back on again.

While there may be some readjustments across the sector to reduce inefficiencies and cut costs, these people will still be required in the medium to long-term and we must continue with our efforts to attract people into the sector. Equally, we need to focus on retaining and developing the skills we have, ensuring that companies are properly resourced.