The oil and gas sector is assessing the range of new skills that will be required as it looks ahead to the next 20 years.
Over that time 10,000 new roles will be needed which don’t currently exist, in areas like data and robotics, as part of the 40,000 workers who will need to be hired into the industry.
That forecast, from skills body Opito and Robert Gordon University, is helping form a wider discussion on how existing roles will evolve over time as well as identifying the new expertise needed.
Organisations like Scottish Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) are working to help individuals and companies better understand the importance of data within the sector, and how to upskill for new ways of working in the future.
Jenny MacDonald, Sector Development and Skills Planning Manager for Oil and Gas at Skills Development Scotland (SDS), believes the industry recognises that new tech and innovations are only as good as the people firms hire to handle them.
“Skills are a fundamental part of the Vision 2035 Strategy being adopted by businesses in the energy sector,” she said.
“They recognise that embracing the developments of new technologies is crucial to their future, but also that people are central to delivering that future.
“As the oil price stabilises and businesses look to capitalise on emerging markets, there is a growing discussion on understanding the future skills needs of the sector and the provision that’s available to help individuals with the necessary skills to reach the workplace, and to then prosper and continue to develop their skills throughout their careers.”
SDS is taking steps to ensure firms have the right skills in place, and has highlighted positive steps already being taken by the industry, like the increase of work-based learning and Robert Gordon
University’s graduate apprenticeship in data science.
As the national skills agency, it is also supporting Scottish Enterprise in hosting a dedicated event in Aberdeen this month on data in the energy sector.
Ms MacDonald said: “Scottish Enterprise hosting the Energy Data Day in Aberdeen on March 13 provides employers with the chance to enhance their understanding of the data skills and talent landscape, as well as learning about the support available to them from a variety of sources.
“SDS is delighted to be a key part of the event and to have the opportunity to share the latest developments in the apprenticeship offering which can be used to attract new talent into the sector and to upskill existing staff.”Digital technology has led to huge strides in other industries, like personal transport and hospitality.
As oil and gas prepares for similar change, it is crucial the workforce is equipped with the right skills, argues Paul de Leeuw, Director of the Oil and Gas Institute at RGU.
He said: “We are seeing unprecedented change in the way we live and work, as well as an increasing datafication of our lives.
“The impact of technology and data is also transforming industries. Amazon has changed the retail sector; Uber and Lyft are changing the personal transport
business; and Airbnb and Deliveroo are materially impacting the hospitality industry.
“Similar change is inevitable across the energy sector. As the oil and gas industry embraces this change, it is now, more than ever, essential to draw on the data we have to inform our strategy around skills to ensure the success of the industry in the coming decades.”
Around 10,000 new people will need to be hired into the industry over the next 20 years in roles that don’t currently exist, according to RGU and Opito’s skills review published last year.
A strategy to tackle this challenge will be published on May 2 in Aberdeen.
Mr De Leeuw added: “It is clear that there will be a requirement to create a more technology-enabled workforce.
There will also be significant demand for new expertise in areas such as data science, data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, material science, change, remote operations and cyber security.
“The new strategy is focused on the sector’s requirements by 2025 and is aimed at ensuring appropriate action can be taken across the industry to sustain jobs and to ensure the workforce has the requisite skills to take advantage of the new opportunities which will emerge.”
Another institution working to develop skills for the future is Aberdeen University. Dr Colin North is the programme director for the university’s MSc in Petroleum Data Management, which launched in 2016.
He said: “The importance of data to the oil and gas industry has grown in recent years, as operators place more significance on its value in supporting exploration and production activity in the UKCS as part of the maximising economic recovery agenda.
“The analysis and interpretation of this data provides the insight from which substantial investment decisions are taken; for example, where to drill a multi-million-
dollar well or where to locate a multi-billion-dollar production platform.
“Acting on demand from several multi-nationals with whom we worked closely to develop the programme, the MSc reflects the requirement for a pipeline of skilled talent to manage the tremendous amounts of data at their disposal.”