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11 Dec 2011

Warning over skill shortage in oil and gas

Source : Scotland on Sunday

THE skills needed in the Scottish oil and gas sector are in “dangerously short supply” and firms need to turn overseas to fill the gaps, according to a senior industry figure.

James Milne, Aberdeen-based managing director of recruitment consultancy Eden Scott, warned that companies must be more “aggressive” when it comes to recruiting and retaining staff.

Milne also suggested that firms need to sponsor more students and apprentices to entice workers into the sector at an early stage.

He told Scotland on Sunday: “Companies need to recognise it’s a global market for talent in this industry and the UK is competing for skilled staff with emerging markets.

“Companies may need to look further afield than they have done in the past and possibly pursue more aggressive recruitment and retention strategies.

” Milne predicted that “oil-rich” countries such as Russia and those in the Middle East, South-East Asia, South America and West Africa would be the main growth markets next year and so will also be competing for workers.

He added: “Companies recruiting for their North Sea operations may need to extend their recruitment search for both UK and non-UK nationals to these markets.” On the apprenticeships front, Milne highlighted the work being done by industry training body Opito and a model used by Apache in which the oil company has partnered with a chamber of commerce in Australia to create a four-year scheme.

Lessons can also be learned from other industries and the training programmes run by companies such as BAE Systems, Balfour Beatty and Rolls-Royce, he added.

Craig Paterson, Scotland operations manager at NES Global Talent, said that companies in the oil and gas sector should be looking at retraining people from heavy industries to fill vacancies.

Paterson said: “A lot of the skill sets are the same. Structural engineers and electrical engineers from, say, the shipbuilding industry can be retrained to work in oil and gas much more quickly than apprentices because they use a lot of the same skills.

” But Paterson sounded a warning note over whether looking overseas would help to fill the gaps. “The UK government’s changes to the visa system make it harder for our clients to recruit staff from outside the European Union.

“But firms should definitely be looking to other EU countries for candidates.

” A study by Opito and the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board found that more than half of firms in the oil and gas sector identified skill shortages as their “number one challenge”. That finding was echoed by a major report issued last week by Lloyds Banking Group, in which 46 per cent of respondents cited a “dearth of industry talent” as an impediment to growth.

Doug Duguid, managing director of engineering firm EnerMech, warned: “We want to create more jobs – the issue is finding the skilled staff we need to meet demand for our services.

” The report from Lloyds, which interviewed 100 “decision makers” from the industry, claimed that Scotland’s oil and gas sector would create “thousands of jobs” over the next two years. More than a quarter of firms predicted they would add 500 staff or more before 2014.

Increased work for big oil and gas companies is expected to have a positive knock-on effect for their suppliers, with just a 3 per cent rise in the value of orders resulting in a further £398.4 million in revenue for the supply chain, according to the report.

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