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Oil and gas still an attractive draw – for now, warns skills body

- New research sheds light on youth perception of North Sea career prospects -

Young people living in the UK’s key energy hubs preparing for and making choices about their future careers still believe there is a long term future in the North Sea and want to pursue a career in the oil and gas industry, according to a new study.

More than 500 students from Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Great Yarmouth, Waveney and Norwich were asked to contribute to the Youth Perception of a Career in the Oil & Gas Industry report which was conducted by oil and gas industry skills organisation OPITO throughout 2016.

The study will be shared with industry as well as the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) National Careers Service, to help inform and shape national career initiatives in the year ahead.

The report shows that 81% of respondents are still interested in pursuing a career in the sector, with the opportunity to work around the world (24%), the development and use of cutting edge science and technology (20%); and salary (19%) given as the top three reasons among young people aged between 14 and 21.

Opportunities for personal development and the global oil and gas community are also ranked (18% and 12% respectively) while the few respondents who cited an alternative reason expressed a desire to “make a difference in the world” and spoke of the association with forward thinking and innovative processes and equipment within the industry.

A total of 77% of respondents said they consider there to be longevity in the UK Continental Shelf. For those that disagree (18%), a lack of confidence in long term resources, competition from more attractive basins in terms of investment opportunities; and increased future sustainability in alternative energy sectors, namely renewables, are cited among the reasons.

The report concludes that, mirroring the demographics of the industry itself, a larger percentage of males (82%) are still being attracted to a career in oil and gas compared to females, providing the industry with a significant opportunity to tap into new talent.

“Despite a general concern with the current messaging being communicated about oil and gas due the challenges facing the industry, a significant 77% of students who provided feedback in 2016 perceive there to be a long term future in the North Sea oil and gas industry,” said John McDonald, interim chief executive of OPITO and member of the Scottish Government’s Energy Jobs Taskforce.

“The students who participated are likely to have an increased interest given that they had, themselves, chosen to take part in an industry specific event but these results are extremely encouraging for the future of the UK’s exploration and production sector, particularly in light of the challenges posed by the ongoing low oil price environment.

“We do need to take a long term view however and should not lose sight of the fact that roughly a quarter of those who attended the events disagree, suggesting that if we do not take action we are in danger of having a reasonable proportion of next generation talent discouraged from pursuing a career in this industry.”

Mr McDonald said it was also encouraging to see the desire to enter the sector so heavily influenced by the capacity to work internationally, to be involved with innovation and benefit from the industry’s opportunities for personal development. “The high salaries associated with oil and gas have often been cited as a primary attraction in the past so it is refreshing to see other factors coming to the fore,” he added.

“Whilst there is much of positive note to take from this report, it is clear that we do need to continue to find ways of attracting women into the sector. Estimates around the proportion of female employees in the oil and gas workforce generally average around 20% and attendance by female students at industry events is even lower which tells us there is a significant pot of untapped talent out there.”

Director of energy at Scottish Enterprise and a member of the Scottish Government’s Energy Jobs Taskforce, Maggie McGinlay, added: “Oil and gas will provide most of our primary energy for decades to come and although the industry is going through a period of change, it will continue to offer significant career opportunities right across Scotland in the long term.“

I am reassured by today’s results that young people do still recognise the important, rewarding and diverse jobs the oil and gas sector can offer and together with our partners, including Skills Development Scotland, we will continue to do everything we can to ensure the sector continues to attract fresh young talent to support its growth ambition.”

OPITO will continue to track changes in youth perceptions at its careers events throughout 2017, including surveying more than 200 pupils from 11 schools across Aberdeen City & Shire who will be connecting with organisations attending Subsea Expo, the world’s largest subsea exhibition and conference.

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