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Majority of UK offshore workforce to be delivering low carbon energy by 2030

View all news from: Robert Gordon University, Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult
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25 May 2021

A new UK Offshore Energy Workforce Transferability Review by Robert Gordon University (RGU) highlights that the offshore energy workforce mix will change significantly in the next 10 years, with roles in decarbonised energies projected to increase from 20% to 65% of all jobs in the offshore energy sector (oil & gas, offshore wind, carbon capture utilisation and storage and hydrogen). 

The Review also indicates that over 90% of the UK’s oil and gas workforce have medium to high skills transferability and are well positioned to work in adjacent energy sectors. 

The opportunities for the UK energy supply chain and for jobs are significant, with over £170 billion investment to be made in capital and operating activities in the UK offshore energy sector over the next ten years.  The Review shows that around 200,000 skilled people are expected to be required in the UK offshore energy industry to ensure delivery in 2030. However, it also highlights the consequences of not delivering the ambitions set by governments and industry and the associated impact on jobs.  

The Review calls for the UK and the devolved Governments to work together with the offshore energy industry and further and higher education sector to ensure the managed transition of skills and experience in a way that protects and sustains key UK energy jobs. 

Key findings of the Review: 

Workforce skill transferability 

  • Around 80% of the jobs in 2030 are envisaged to be in nine key job families - Operations, Technicians, Engineering, Projects, Commercial/Business Development/Marketing, Procurement/Supply chain management, Finance, HR and HSE 
  • Soft skills and other non-technical skills are generally highly transferable to adjacent energy sectors 
  • Around 100,000 (c 50%) of the jobs in 2030 are projected to be filled by people transferring from existing oil and gas jobs to offshore renewable roles, new graduates and new recruitment from outside the existing UK offshore energy sector. 
  • With the increased energy system localisation and the emergence of integrated regional energy clusters it is projected that the offshore energy workforce will become increasingly regionalised. 

2030 Workforce 

  • Around 200,000 people are likely to be required in 2030 to underpin the developing offshore wind, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage as well as the vital ongoing oil and gas activities in the UK offshore energy sector. This compares to around 160,000 people directly and indirectly employed in the UK offshore energy sector in 2021. 
  • The offshore energy workforce mix is expected to change with over 65% of the workforce by 2030 projected to support low carbon energy activities.
  • Of the c. 200,000 people projected to be directly and indirectly employed in the UK offshore energy sector by 2030. c. 90,000 (c. 45%) are expected to support offshore wind, c. 70,000 (c. 35%) oil and gas, and c. 40,000 (c. 20%) other offshore related energy projects and clusters. 

Action and delivery are key  

The prize of delivering the targets identified for offshore wind, oil and gas, hydrogen, carbon capture utilisation and storage by 2030 are material for the UK offshore energy workforce. The review indicates that the impact of a reduced ambition, combined with lower activity level and accelerated decline in the oil and gas industry could reduce the offshore energy workforce requirements to fewer than 140,000 jobs by 2030.  

It is key that UK and devolved governments work together with the offshore energy sector to ensure the managed transition of skills and experience in a way that protects and sustains key UK energy jobs. 

Professor Paul de Leeuw, Director of the Energy Transition Institute at Robert Gordon University and the Review’s lead author, commented:  "This Review highlights the material prize for the UK. Successful delivery of the UK and the devolved Governments’ energy transition ambitions has the opportunity to secure around 200,000 jobs in 2030 for the offshore energy workforce. With the overall number of jobs in the UK oil and gas industry projected to decline over time, the degree of transferability of jobs to adjacent energy sectors such as offshore wind, carbon capture and storage, hydrogen or other industrial sectors will be key to ensuring the UK retains its world class skills and capabilities  

"With many of the skills and competencies required for the offshore energy sector to be highly interchangeable, the energy transition offers a unique opportunity to create a new world class net zero energy workforce. The workforce transferability model developed as part of the review enables new insights on the workforce implications for a wide range of scenarios on how to ensure a just and fair transition. The model can also provide real-time insights on future workforce requirements and the job and transferability impact of specific investments or policy decisions. 

"There is a significant role for the Higher Education sector to play in ensuring the targets set out by governments and industry are achieved and that the upskilling and reskilling of the workforce is delivered to meet the demands of the changing energy landscape.”

UK Energy Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: "We have a world leading offshore energy sector in Scotland and across the UK with a proven mix of critical skills, which are essential to the success of the energy industry.

"Through our leading North Sea Transition Deal, we set out how we will make certain we have an energy skills base in the UK that is fit for the future, while our Green Jobs Taskforce will advise on how we can create the broader skilled workforce to deliver net zero by 2050.

"The Review rightly recognises the need to support the skills transition. The UK Government is committed to working with all relevant agencies in a way that develops the full potential of the energy industry.”

Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work Richard Lochhead said: "The Scottish Government is wholly committed to ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change and doing so in a way that is fair for all, ensuring a green recovery and a just transition that supports good green jobs, skills and expertise and leaves no-one behind. 

"Ensuring a just transition is critical for the energy sector and I welcome the findings of this review, which recognises that the knowledge and skills of the offshore oil and gas workforce are required for a successful and sustainable energy transition.  

"The re-deployment and, where necessary, re-training of oil and gas workers will be key to ensuring a just transition over the next decade, and to meeting the labour and skills needs of a growing renewables sector. Our Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan puts knowledge and skills at the heart of a systematic approach to retaining skills and expertise as we transition to becoming a net-zero economy.” 

Neil Gordon, CEO of Subsea UK, said: "We welcome the findings of this report which further demonstrate the wealth of opportunity for the underwater industry within the stream of live opportunities in offshore wind and those in emerging floating offshore wind, wave and tidal, hydrogen and CCUS.

"The UK’s underwater industry is world-renowned for its experience and expertise, largely honed in North Sea oil and gas but now gaining traction in offshore wind, floating wind and marine renewables. It is therefore well positioned to play an important role in the energy transition. Subsea UK is already supporting members on this journey by providing the insight, knowledge and support required to enable companies to establish themselves in renewables and ensure they have the capability to capitalise on the net-zero opportunity.”

OGUK Workforce and Skills manager Alix Thom commented: "Today’s report from Robert Gordon University recognises the positive impact our industry’s transition to net zero will have on our people, their jobs, and the energy communities across the UK. 

"Within our workforce exists the skills and expertise to deliver the solutions we need to make our net zero ambitions a reality. We welcome RGU’s findings today, showing that the overwhelming majority of roles within our industry are well positioned to transfer into adjacent lower carbon roles if necessary action is taken. Many companies in our industry are already active in renewable energy, and this report confirms that our changing industry will continue to support jobs in communities across the UK for many years to come.

"With the signing of the ground-breaking North Sea Transition Deal in March this year, our industry has an ambitious plan with government to ensure our workforce and supply chain will not be left behind as we transit to a lower carbon energy mix. We echo RGU’s calls for a continued focus and collaborative working between all relevant stakeholders, to ensure our industry can play its vital role in the future of energy.” 

The Offshore Wind Sector Deal Director of People and Skills, Celia Anderson of RenewableUK, said: "Renewables are creating new opportunities for people across the UK, including workers leaving fossil fuel industries who have relevant transferable skills. We’re going to see a huge expansion in offshore wind over the course of this decade, quadrupling our current capacity by 2030. That means we’ll need a massive influx of highly-skilled UK workers to build vital new energy infrastructure, as this report shows. Former oil and gas workers offer a wealth of knowledge and experience in this field. 

"The offshore wind industry is working closely with the Government to ensure the right training and support is in place to harness all the talent and expertise we’ll need in the transition to clean energy. For example, we’re developing an offshore energy passporting system to ensure that all parts of the energy sector recognise transferable skills and training, to enable offshore workers to move seamlessly between renewables and other technologies. This is one of the measures which will help us to increase the number of skilled people working in the sector by attracting a wide, diverse pool of talent of all ages and backgrounds. 

"Another important step is for Government to ensure that it reaches consenting decisions on major renewable energy projects in a timely manner, so that we can maintain our strong project pipeline in the years ahead. This will help the UK to help to reach net zero emissions as fast as possible”. 

Professor Paul de Leeuw, Director of the Energy Transition Institute at Robert Gordon University

Majority of UK offshore workforce to be delivering low carbon energy by 2030