Energy services giant Wood is expecting to create around 300 new jobs thanks to a surge in activity in the UK North Sea.
The boost means a 20% increase to engineering and technical roles only, while Wood’s wider overall headcount across the UK is around 3,000.
It comes amid an uptick in activity for Aberdeen-headquartered Wood, with a series of North Sea awards during 2021 with operators including Shell, Dana Petroleum, Taqa, Spirit Energy and NAM.
Ellis Renforth is now leading the business as president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, having recently taken over from Craig Shanaghey, who is now executive president of operations for the group.
Looking at the future of the North Sea, Renforth struck a positive tone.
“I think there’s reason to be optimistic, maybe a different place from where we were 12 months ago, and there’s a big focus on energy security. With that, coupled with a sustainable future, a reduced carbon future, I think the UK traditional oil and gas sector has a massive part to play.
“We’ve been talking about this for quite a while now, but I think it’s really gathered pace over the last 12-18 months.”
It comes amid rapid change for the industry which during Covid-19 saw projects shut down and thousands of jobs cut – including from Wood.
A series of drivers are changing the picture, most notably the invasion of Ukraine and the knock-on focus to energy security and the rise in commodity prices.
One aspect which Renforth expects will drive projects is the tax incentives linked to the Energy Profits Levy (EPL), otherwise known as the windfall tax.
Though some operators have lamented the levy, others have indicated it will drive investment thanks to those investment incentives.
However, receiving that boost broadly depends on the investment pipeline for operators, and the industry now faces a headline tax rate of 65% through to 2025.
Renforth said: “I think it would be wrong to sit here and say the EPL is good, it’s not. We have to live with it, and it’s how do operators best make use of the playing field that they’re in now.
“It’s there and we have to work with it, and it will drive thinking differently by operator, by asset based on the maturity of those assets and what development opportunities exist.”
Driving smart solutions through digital software and technology is a major focus for the operations and maintenance team.
It comes as the industry tries to assess the profile of the future workforce; and whether the rise of areas like automation could see a reduced offshore workforce.
For Renforth, however, the rise of technology does not mean a cut on that front.
“New technologies and improved with ways of working is absolutely something we’re focused on.
“I wouldn’t want to link that to a reduced workforce – I don’t believe that’s the case.
“We’re seeing growth in the region, and so one of our biggest strategic focuses right now is talent and skills attraction and retention
“We are definitely bringing new tech to the market, and I think there is a huge opportunity there to be both more efficient in how we operate the assets but also we can bring new ways of working.”
Attracting and retaining talent is something the wider industry is focused on as activity ramps up.
“I think a big part of that attraction is looking on the oil and gas sector in Aberdeen as an energy centre.
“It’s still got a huge part to play in oil and gas, but it’s a cleaner energy sector and we need to have that that sell for attracting the current generation.
“There’s been a huge effort put into that that transition going forward by Deirdre (Michie) and OEUK (Offshore Energies UK) -, and I think that worked well and but that’s a key part of that messaging; making sure the energy sector that we’re in is competitive against other sectors.”
The 20% forecasted increase for Wood’s headcount is on the back of work to “highlight to people that oil and gas still has a strong future, but it’s part of a wider energy offering,” Renforth said.
“Addressing that does mean new ways of working and focusing on new areas, but not at the expense of oil and gas.
“It will mean we have a more diversified portfolio, but we’re not turning one off to turn the other on, and I think what we’re seeing is we can transfer the skills that we’ve got across that wider energy sector delivery.”