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Ex-military personnel target of new oil and gas strategy

The government is hoping to recruit ex-military personnel to fill thousands of projected jobs in the oil and gas industry under its new sector strategy.

The business, energy and Scottish secretaries hope the new policy directives unveiled today – aimed at growing the supply chain, tackling the skills gap and encouraging technology development – will secure billions of pounds of investment and create thousands of new jobs in the sector.

The announcement, which included the creation of £7m research and training centre for subsea and offshore engineering, coincided with the decision by a consortium of firms including BP and Shell to invest $500m (£330m) appraising a possible third phase of drilling in the giant Clair oil field, west of the Shetland Islands.

This is the latest example of the growing investment in Britain’s offshore industry, which trade body Oil & Gas UK last month said would reach £13bn in 2013, with companies planning a total of £100bn in the future.

As a result, the industry expects to require an extra 15,000 staff over the next four to five years across a range of disciplines. By contrast the MoD is expected to make around 20,000 service personnel redundant by 2017.

Oil & Gas UK, which welcomed the government’s new strategy, said that although graduate and apprenticeship schemes were oversubscribed, there would likely be a shortage of mid-career employees as many with North Sea experience were lured abroad – which is where ex-military personnel could come in.

‘This has been done in the past by individual companies and with tremendous success,’ Dr Alix Thom, Oil & Gas UK’s employment and skills issues manager, told The Engineer.

‘What we’re looking to do here and what the government has helped us to do is make the introductions to the MoD [Ministry of Defence] at a national level so that we can plan ahead and had a better idea of the resources that are becoming free.’

She added that the experience and transferable of ex-military personnel would enable them to fill a number of roles including engineers, technicians and logistics managers, and that they brought a tremendous work ethic and a familiarity with offshore operations.

The government’s new strategy lays out a number of goals for supporting the UK oil and gas industry by:

  • maintaining a tax regime that encourages investment;
  • developing the supply chain;
  • expanding exports;
  • filling the skills gap;
  • encouraging technology research and development;
  • raising the sector’s profile abroad;
  • improving access to finance.

This includes some specific measures such as the launch of the Neptune National Centre for Subsea and Offshore Engineering at Newcastle University and the decommissioning tax relief announced in last week’s budget.

‘The launch of the government’s strategy for the sector is one more step in the right direction and brings deserved recognition to the capabilities of our world class supply chain,’ said Oil & Gas UK’s chief executive Malcolm Webb, in a statement.

‘It will further strengthen the oilfield services sector across the country, boost investor confidence, safeguard jobs and help to maximise recovery of Britain’s oil and gas reserves.’

But Mark Higginson, an oil and gas specialist and senior partner at PWC Aberdeen, said that while the strategy showed good general support for the industry, the jury was still out on whether it would lead to more specific effective measures.

‘I would have liked to see a bit of support for Aberdeen itself,’ he told The Engineer, referring to the need to make the Scottish oil and gas centre a more attractive place for engineers in order to help address the skills shortage.

‘One of the things Aberdeen has suffered from is that, because it’s seen as a prosperous place, there’s not been an awful lot of infrastructure investment in things like roads and housing.’


Readers' comments (6)

  • I take particular interest in this story being ex-forces myself and employed in the oil and gas industry. The only issue I have is the mis-interpretation of military personnel as 'soldiers' by both press and government. This implies someone who runs around with a gun shooting people with no major secondary role.

    I am ex R.A.F. and spent 22 years as an Engineering technician, within the R.A.F. there are many thousands of highly skilled engineers / technicians (not going to get into the engineer arguement). I transitioned to the oil and gas industry some 5 years ago.

    The military engineering training, backed up with the many years of technical and engineering experience that most ex Navy / R.A.F. 'techies' have is invaluable and immediately cross-transferable to the oil and gas, and support, industries. In my recent experience almost all of the personnel leaving the R.A.F. bases at Lossiemouth and Kinloss with a decent amount of time served have entered the oil and gas industry.

    This story (the government spin) seems to be about 2-3 years behind what is actually happening. The real story however is what happens when the armed forces reduce to critical mass and the redundancies etc cease, where will the manpower the oil and gas industry needs come from then?

    North sea and global oil and gas is booming at the moment with insufficient contractors to meet the requirements of new fields, as the main players can not meet the staffing requirements for the engineering (consequently wages are rising well above national averages).

    I fail to see how the government can improve the situation which is already bouyant with the industry actively seeking ex-military engineers from all services (R.A.F., Navy, Army) and all levels, primariliy as the engineering training afforded to military personnel is second to none, here I speak having seen both sides of training (military and civil).

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  • Thanks for your comment. While we have used the term 'soldier' here as shorthand for military personnel and would hope that most Engineer readers would appreciate that frontline military personnel do far more than, as you put it, run around with guns, we appreciate that the word doesn't convey the full range of roles and skills covered by the military as a whole. Therefore we have removed the word from the headline and first sentence of this story.

  • Great article and exciting news for personnel leaving the forces, and their prospects in future.

    I disagree with the comments above about the word soldier, it doesn't imply someone running around with a gun at all. Only ex-RAF could really come up with such a comment.

    I think most involved with targeting ex-mil for their company or their industry are educated people and would understand the context that the word 'soldier' has been used in, in the article above.

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  • How do we go about joining on of these company for the opportunity to get a career on the rigs?

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  • The Engineer Jobs website is always a good place to start. But Oil and Gas UK offer advice on their website: http://www.oilandgasuk.co.uk/preparingtowork/working_in_industry.cfm

  • As a serving member of the Armed Forces until April this year, I have read this article from last year with great interest. I have been looking to get into the industry since April last year, like a lot of other service leavers, with very little success.

    If the oil and gas industry wish to plug the 15,000 people shortage gap, they have to start making allowances and let people in or they will fail miserably. The attitude of the industry is 'you earn your place off-shore' and 'it's too dangerous to go off shore straight away' just displays the ignorance to what a serviceman can do.........try going to sea on a nuclear submarine working 6 on/6 off, then you will know what danger is. We need to research our new roles and careers and the oil & gas industry needs to research exactly what we can do! Running into brick walls when applying are turning us away to other industries.

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  • I was a REME engineer for 6 years and have been trying to get into the industry now for 15 months and have applied for well over 1000 jobs without even getting an interview. There seems to be a different story coming from the guys who work offshore and the recruitment teams who actually do the hiring. People I have spoken to who work offshore say most guys that are getting starts don't know what they are doing yet when I speak to the recruitment staff they are only taking on people with offshore experience! Very hard to understand when I am trying to even get an interview.

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  • I have my bosiet, mist and medical done and am looking at getting offshore as soon as possible. willing to do anything. just looking at getting my foot in the door. any help at all would be appreciated.

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