Oil and gas firms facing chronic skill shortages have been given a boost by UK Government plans to relax strict immigration rules.
Businesses should be able to recruit skilled engineers from outside Europe more quickly and easily after 20 job categories were added to a list of roles UK companies are struggling to fill.
The move – to be introduced later this week – was welcomed yesterday by the oil and gas industry, which said it would help to unlock the sector’s potential.
The shortage occupation list (Sol) is a register of jobs exempt from strict immigration rules which limit employers from taking on skilled foreigners.
Following a review, the UK Border Agency’s migration advisory committee (Mac) has ruled that jobs including mechanical, production and electrical engineers should be added to the Sol.
Alix Thom, employment and skills policy manager at trade body Oil and Gas UK, said: “Record investment in producing Britain’s oil and gas is expected this year, but companies frequently cite the skills shortage as the biggest challenge in achieving growth. We are encouraged that the Mac has listened to the case the industry made and has acted to help companies recruit the engineers needed to fulfil major projects.”
Jill Turner, an immigration and employment-law expert at law firm Pinsent Masons, said it would help employers to plug a growing skills gap.
She added: “Clients tell me one of their biggest challenges is being able to fill key jobs when bidding for or landing a contract and this creates uncertainty and undermines long-term planning and business growth.
“Mac has acknowledged that there is a shortage of specialist skills in Aberdeen, which is vital to the oil and gas industry, and that it’s not possible to train people for those posts in the short term.”
Mac chairman David Metcalf said the committee took the decision because the increasing demand for specialist engineers continued to outstrip supply.