The shortage of specialised engineers in the oil and gas industry has reached “tipping point” despite record investment, according to a prominent industry executive.

Steve Harley, the HR director at Subsea 7 – an engineering and construction firm with operations in Canada and the North Sea – was speaking to HR magazine in the light of a recent report from oilandgaspeople.com highlighting the looming skills crisis. The study found that 125,000 additional North Sea oil and gas professionals would be needed over the next ten years to replace the growing numbers of engineers reaching retirement age.

Mr Harvey concedes that the oil and gas sector has been aware of the coming skills shortage for some time, adding: “But it has got to a tipping point, where organisations are genuinely worried about how they are going to grow in the future.”

Mr Harvey advocates taking action now to persuade young schoolchildren to become interested in engineering so that they can mature into the oil and gas engineers of the future, as well as countering the assumption that the industry is “dirty” in order to attract female talent.

He also criticised North Sea employers for constantly hunting for “gold-plated” CVs.  In addition to graduate programmes, which are of necessity limited in number, companies should be providing many more conversion programmes to harness transferable skills. People coming out of the army, he said, have “excellent transferable skills”, and so do many others.

A more immediate solution not mentioned by Mr Harvey, but which may ameliorate the shortfall to some extent, is to harness the talent of skilled Umbrella Company Employees, who could step into the breach without delay.

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