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Oil & Gas: An increasingly international workforce

A RECENT GOVERNMENT-BACKED REVIEW OF ENGINEERING SKILLS CONDUCTED BY PROFESSOR JOHN PERKINS OF THE DEPARTMENT FOR BUSINESS, INNOVATION AND SKILLS BRINGS TO LIGHT THE INCREASING RELIANCE OF THE OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY ON MIGRANT WORKERS.

 

One in five technical and engineering roles within the industry is currently filled by immigrants and the 2013 Offshore Demographics Report by Oil & Gas UK shows a decrease in the percentage of British offshore workers operating in the UK from 86.7% in 2006 to 82.8% in 2012.

 

Moreover, following a review by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) the British Government revealed plans earlier this year to ease UK immigration laws for skilled foreign workers in specific industries and engineering roles, notably within oil and gas. The decision to add jobs in oil and gas extraction to the Shortage Occupation List follows a boost in labour demand for the sector and the need to fill the current skills gap in the UK.

 

This increase in foreign workers in the oil and gas industry is a phenomenon by no means restricted to the UK. In Canada, labour shortages within the sector – which are expected to increase within the next ten years – are being addressed by the active recruitment of skilled immigrants. Other solutions to fill the skills gap include recruiting engineers from different industries. Last year the UK Government unveiled plans for a national programme to retrain ex-military personnel for the oil and gas industry and Julia Harvie-Liddel, who works in global recruitment for BP, has also commented on the success of hiring from other industries, including NASA engineers.

 

These reports highlight two current recruitment issues facing the oil and gas industry today. Firstly, more and more immigrants are being employed by companies within the industry and need to be trained up to an operational level of English. Secondly, they highlight the skills shortages within the UK and other countries that are being addressed by foreign workers. These shortages need to be met with a focus on retaining and developing existing talent, as well as training new talent. In fact, the findings of a surveyconducted by the Society of Petroleum Engineers demonstrate the importance of training for the oil and gas industry; they showed that more than half of industry employees would consider leaving an employer due to a lack of training opportunities.

 

As the industry becomes even more global, the need for cohesive and standardised training, both technical and in the English language, is evident. Training solutions must understand and meet the needs of an international and globally mobile industry and provide specific and expert teaching.