Subsea UK Sees Growth Constraints Due to Lack of People

An electronic poll of Subsea UK members has revealed that over 80% are still seeking to recruit engineers and technicians.

The industry body’s chief executive, David Pridden says: "Recent reports have implied that the skills issue in the oil and gas industry has perhaps been over-played and that the shortages are not as acute as we believed. However, our members would disagree. Skills and ageism issues are causing real problems for the sector, making it difficult to keep up with demand and threatening our pole position in the global marketplace."

The UK subsea sector currently leads the world, employing 40,000 people and generating in excess of £3.5 billion in revenues.

Pridden adds: "We must have an industry-wide set of solutions here in the UK to attract more engineers into the sector. This means promoting engineering as well as educating existing engineers about the opportunities in the subsea oil and gas sector."

Subsea UK is currently working on a raft of initiatives with the industry, universities and training bodies to find solutions, which address the shortage of engineers.

These include collaboration with oil and gas industry skills and training body, OPITO, to explore schemes specific to the subsea sector such as modern apprenticeships.

Another initiative is building on the on-line course for subsea engineers developed last year in conjunction with the Robert Gordon University. The innovative course, developed by the university’s commercial arm, Univation, aims to attract new engineers to the sector. It contains four modules, which will allow people unfamiliar with oil and gas to gear up for a career in subsea. Suitable for engineers and non-technical personnel, the course includes introductions to the oil and gas industry; oil and gas engineering; the subsea industry; and subsea engineering.

Subsea UK is supporting the new Masters courses in subsea engineering by Aberdeen and Robert Gordon universities and hopes they will lead to the introduction of specific modules on subsea within undergraduate courses as well.

Subsea UK hopes that some of these initiatives will start to bear fruit to meet the short-term needs of its members but Pridden warns that they must gain wider pan-industry support.

"While this is a sector specific shortage, the whole oil and gas supply chain has to work together to develop solutions. The future of the offshore oil and gas industry is increasingly dependent on subsea. Now that subsea processing and gas compression are finally realities, recovering the remaining reserves of the UKCS and the deepwater provinces around the world will be largely achieved through the use of subsea technologies and we must ensure that this sector is not constrained globally through a lack of skilled people."