TAX breaks for professionals and more encouragement of young people into engineering could help to plug a looming shortage of skilled personnel in the decommissioning sector, according to an industry body.
Decom North Sea (Decom), the offshore oil and gas decommissioning group, says future projects in the North Sea are facing a significant shortage of skilled personnel unless action is taken immediately.
Its concern is based on research into the future labour and skill requirements for the growing decommissioning sector.
The project, carried out by a Robert Gordon University PhD student, found there would be a significant shortage of skilled and professional personnel over the next 20 years. It is thought between 1,240 and 5,180 additional skilled onsite personnel will be needed each year until 2020, with the number peaking in 2015.
The study also found about 950 extra offsite management and engineering personnel would be needed in the short term, with the number dropping over the years.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding decommissioning timescales, however, the numbers could change.
According to the research, skill shortages are not being caused by an ageing oil and gas industry workforce but by the increase in numbers of skilled people needed and greater competition between industries – such as power infrastructure and nuclear – for trained staff. Findings included a recommendation that data on scheduled projects should be more easily accessible and that there should be continued investment in attracting school leavers into engineering careers.
It was also suggested the industry should be encouraged to sponsor students and apprentices, and that there could be tax breaks for skilled and professional engineering personnel.
Decom chief executive Brian Nixon said the outlook for the UK oil and gas decommissioning supply chain was promising.
He added: “We are working with our members to develop an assessment of the quality and quantity of skills that will be needed, from technicians to engineers and project managers, and look at that against the bigger picture of how the needs of decommissioning will fit with other offshore work and the renewables sector as these industries grow.”
More than £1billion a year of decommissioning expenditure is forecast for the UK North Sea by 2015.
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Decom North Sea and Oil and Gas UK is running the Offshore Decommissioning Conference at Dunblane from October 4-6.