Skills strategy will prepare for digital transformation, Opito says

OPITO CEO John McDonald
OPITO chief executive John McDonald says the oil and gas industry will be heavily scrutinised, so it has to show itself to be a relevant and exciting prospect

A new skills strategy for oil and gas is being developed following the launch of OPITO’s Workforce Dynamics Review.

Determining the shape of the oil and gas workforce of tomorrow is a bigger challenge than in previous cycles.

The review, produced in partnership with RGU’s Oil and Gas Institute, shows 10,000 of the 40,000 people we’ll need to recruit over the next 20 years, will be in posts that don’t exist today.

There is a growing need to attract people who are industry agnostic; valuable across many different sectors. This means we’re going to be competing for candidates to fill new roles outwith our ‘comfort zone’ engineering disciplines. A specialist in cyber security or artificial intelligence could help our industry understand the mountains of data collected for more accurate E&P results or to develop new automation solutions to drive asset efficiencies.

The industry will be heavily scrutinised by the best candidates against other sectors which can be perceived as more cutting edge with longer-term prospects.

Not only do we need to demonstrate that the oil and gas industry is a relevant and exciting place to work, but also get across that there is a long future in the basin and attractive career progression.

The sector currently employs or supports around one out of every 100 jobs in the UK and is key for the UK’s energy security. We are already a leader in areas such as subsea, engineering and decommissioning and that is expected to continue for years to come.

With 20 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe) still to be recovered, there is a $1 trillion prize to go after. We must be pragmatic as those reserves are increasingly difficult to access, however transformational technologies and new ways of working are going to help tap into those harder-to-reach pools.

We need to demonstrate the potential of being at the forefront of the kinds of job roles which will be required to drive this. Emerging from a tough downturn, the review was timed to ensure we are poised and ready for those evolving skills requirements.

A skills strategy for oil and gas is a shared challenge for industry, government, bodies like OPITO, those who deliver education and training and most importantly, those who require the skill sets; the workforce.

Any model needs to be inclusive and will be underpinned by solid labour market intelligence.

One of the key outcomes of this approach is a single unified voice to government on what the industry will require in terms of support. It’s likely to include the development of new training programmes and educational courses involving input from a whole range of stakeholders.

To make the most of energy transition opportunities, common training standards will be needed across the energy sectors to support a more flexible workforce.

We are already involved in a skills-mapping exercise across the other energy industries including renewables and nuclear to help determine how this will work.

Ultimately, this is our chance for industry to upskill the existing workforce and make sure that
we can make the most of opportunities around emerging roles so we can attract the diverse talent we need.

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