Even though the UK’s oil and gas industry has a growing talent pool of engineers and IT pros working flexibly as Umbrella Company Employees, it still faces a potentially crippling skills shortage – a disaster the government is now trying to offset by relaxing its immigration rules.

The initiative will make it easier to hire engineers from outside Europe; however, according to Oilandgaspeople.com, the move, though welcome, is merely a short-term solution and must be supplemented with immediate action to deal with the skills shortage longer term.

Oilandgaspeople.com’s CEO Kevin Forbes said that it was good to see the government modifying its tough stance on immigration for strategically important industries, although he believes the decision is long overdue given the severity of the skills shortage. The move enables employers to recruit overseas workers directly without first wasting months advertising for non-existent European workers.

He continued, however, that there is a real concern that the measure will be insufficient even in the short term: “While skilled foreign workers are now able to come to the UK and work for North Sea oil and gas thanks to this change, they will still be tempted by higher wages in other parts of the world where skilled staff are also in short supply.”

A register of jobs has now been set up, all of which are exempt from the government’s stringent immigration rules. The Shortage Occupation List includes 20 new engineering job categories and will enable North Sea oil and gas companies to hire non-European talent directly without doing a largely futile sweep of Europe first.

Mr Forbes added that the industry still required more training and more people coming into it.

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