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Subsea Surge Under Threat from Missing Generation

15th February 2008 - The Scotsman

15 February 2008

A LACK of skilled workers is threatening expansion of the North Sea's subsea companies which was revealed yesterday to be the fastest growing sector of British industry.
Last year, revenues in the sector soared by almost 30 per cent to £4.3 billion, almost twice the growth predicted by leading companies in the sector, securing Britain's place as the world leader in subsea developments across the globe.

International business now accounts for more than half of the revenues of British subsea companies, the majority of which are based in the North-east of Scotland and the north-east of England.

David Pridden, chief executive of Subsea UK, the industry's representative body, said 800 companies were now operating in the rapidly expanding sector, providing direct employment for an estimated 40,000 people.

Some companies have orders through to 2012. But Pridden warned that a shortage of up to 6,000 skilled workers, from engineers to technicians and divers, posed an "important threat" to the continued growth of Britain's subsea industry.

He said: "For the industry to have grown 29 per cent in one year is a tremendous figure. But human resources are having a significant impact and it is not just here in the UK but across the globe. There is a missing generation in subsea."

He added: "We laid off a lot of people in the 90s when the oil price had one of its lower periods on two occasions.

"We are now missing that generation. You can't find 20 to 25-year-old experienced subsea people and we can't create those."

Pridden welcomed the announcement that a new institute for research into
subsea oil and gas technologies is to be created in Aberdeen in a partnership venture involving Aberdeen, Robert Gordon and Dundee universities.

He said: "It is pleasing to see the number of graduates coming into the industry, but we have a missing generation in terms of resource and people.

"We estimate there are about 30,000 to 40,000 people in the industry in this country, so if the industry is going to grow by 15 to 20 per cent we will need 5,000 to 6,000 people across the board in the next year or so, and that will continue for some time engineers, remotely-operated-vehicle technicians, marine people and project people.

"A total of 45 new vessels are coming on to the market in the next two or three years and simply to man these vessels will require a significant number of people.

"We are the global leaders in terms of resource and people and basic revenues."