Concern surrounding potential engineering and technology skills shortages in the United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS) has been a matter of much discussion for a number of years. A number of reasons have been put forward for these fears including demographic aging of the workforce and lack of young people in training. This fear is exacerbated by the need for skilled personnel to decommission platforms and infrastructure as oil fields in the UKCS are depleted.
The UK North Sea decommissioning phase has begun. Hundreds of platforms and structures and thousands of kilometres of pipeline will be decommissioned over the next few decades.
This project sought to assess the reality of the feared skills shortages with particular emphasis to the UKCS decommissioning phase.
The data regarding availability and requirements for personnel was gathered from surveys and reports carried out by the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB), Scottish Enterprise, Oil and Gas UK (OGUK), the Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation (OPITO), EngineeringUK and Hays Oil & Gas. The vast majority of this data is readily available in the public domain on the internet.
Appropriate information on estimated future requirements for and availabilities of skilled personnel was extracted from the various reports. This was then converted into tabular format and is presented graphically for ease of visual comparison.
The report concludes the following:
Firstly it was found that no new skill sets are anticipated for decommissioning. All required skills already exist.
Secondly the myth of an aging UKCS workforce is disproved.
Finally, the concern regarding shortages applicable specifically to the decommissioning phase is addressed. Noting that, an accurate schedule for decommissioning is not available as dates are dependent on the fiscal viability of each structure, calculations are based on the Scottish Enterprise 2005 estimated decommissioning schedule.
The results indicate a 32% shortage of skilled onsite personnel. Results for offsite professional personnel differ greatly indicating an initial 14% shortage rapidly tapering off over 5 years.
In summary, the findings indicate that there will be a significant shortage of skilled and professional personnel over the next 20 years if action to mitigate this eventuality is not taken immediately.