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North-east oil industry needs to enhance ‘narrative’ or risk a ‘brain drain’

© Shutterstock / Oil and Gas PhotoNorth-east oil narrative

Oil and gas companies in the north-east have been challenged to alter the narrative around the industry in order to dissuade talent from relocating.

Findlay Anderson, vice president & general counsel, oilfield equipment at Baker Hughes, says the regions risks a “brain drain” unless it can enhance its image.

Concerns have been voiced by numerous North Sea figures in recent times that the  industry could soon be plagued by a dearth of skilled workers.

Successive downturns and an image problem, particularly given the focus on climate change, mean oil and gas doesn’t have the same pull it once did.

Worryingly it comes as numerous North Sea companies gear themselves up to help deliver the energy transition.

Speaking at an Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) event in Aberdeen on Tuesday, Mr Anderson said: “We ned to have an attractive narrative as an industry in a rapidly changing world. I think companies across the north-east will struggle to hire people as more move away to, for instance, the north-east of England into renewables companies – the hiring going on there is significant.

“There is a battle for talent and we risk a brain drain from the north-east in particular. We need to work with government and across the industry to look at what that just transition means.”

Energy Voice recently revealed that interest in oil and gas related courses at Aberdeen University has fallen dramatically in recent years.

For all degree courses at the university explicitly related to oil and gas, there were 1,027 applications in 2017/18, dropping to 690 by 2020/21.

Conversely green energy courses have enjoyed a steady rise, from 356 in 2017/18 to 584 in 2020/21.

Mr Anderson said: “The challenges will be huge. I was over at the University recently sitting with a master’s student talking about the industry.

“Despite the fact they’re sitting doing a masters in Aberdeen looking at the oil industry, they found it hard to understand how the sector is investing in the transition.

“Our reputation and our external face is not good in the public arena, and we need to properly address that.”

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