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North Sea energy workforce offers an unrivalled pool of skilled people to power the transition to clean energy

12 December 2023

The North Sea energy workforce offers an unrivalled pool of skilled oil and gas specialists that must be retained to power the transition to clean energy, according to the Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) Workforce Insight 2023 report published today.

A successful homegrown energy transition using existing skills could see the UK energy workforce swell by 50% with new jobs bringing the total number employed in the sector to 225,000 by 2030, the report says.

The report highlights the fact that more than 90% of all those currently working in oil and gas production and its associated supply chain have skills that are potentially transferable to wind, carbon capture, usage and storage and clean hydrogen energy production.

It is vital that the transition from dependence on oil and gas is effectively managed to ensure the existing skills of these workers are taken into account so they can move smoothly into new roles.

It is similarly essential that education systems are adapted to future workforce requirements and offers similar status to students pursuing technical instead of academic pathways, with better long-term funding for apprenticeships at all levels. We need to develop and make available vocational pathways for young people and those not in work so we can plug the shortage of skilled technical trades.

The Workforce Insight report also calls for:

  • A fair and predictable tax regime to attract investment in North Sea energy. It calculates that with the right incentives and stability UK offshore energy companies would invest up to £200 billion in homegrown renewable energy.
  • Joined up thinking between the energy industry, trade unions, and national and devolved governments, as well as education providers who are delivering training for new generations of workers as the UK’s world-leading renewable energy sector grows.
  • A dedicated skills co-ordinating body for each of the UK’s devolved nations to establish effective collaboration between employers and education providers to ensure a continuing pipeline of highly skilled and trained workers in areas such as electrical maintenance and pipefitting.
  • A joint commitment between government and industries to deliver a ‘Skills Passport’ which will help to capitalise on the highly transferrable skills of the oil & gas workforce, show career pathways between related sectors, and help ensure that people can move efficiently back and forth.

As the UK struggles with skilled worker shortages, it is essential that people currently working in the country’s offshore energy industry are kept in employment during the transition, or their vital skills will be lost.

OEUK’s research shows the opportunity for home-produced energy and new jobs is enormous but it will rely on fiscal stability and an attractive investment environment.

Allowing skilled workers to be lost from the labour market will mean that we will be forced to import what we need. Britain therefore risks losing its place as the world’s second biggest provider of wind energy after China.

‘‘Our world class workforce is key to providing affordable, reliable, lower carbon energy which creates jobs, grows the economy, and cuts emissions,’ said Katy Heidenreich OEUK’s director of supply chain and people.

‘This cannot be a debate about oil and gas versus renewables. We need to support both oil and gas and renewable energy since they are increasingly the remit of the same companies and the same people.

‘Instead, it needs to be a conversation about unlocking the full potential of our people. If we get this investment it will mean the UK can scale up to reach 50GW of wind and 10GW of hydrogen, and speed the development of at least 4 clusters of carbon capture and storage projects by 2030,

‘That is what the future could look like, but our research shows we need more action to address skill shortages and to recognise the huge value in the existing workforce.

‘We need to continue to collaborate over this issue, and industry continues to work with politicians of all parties as well as policymakers to signpost where transformational action could be realised.

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