Britain’s North Sea energy industry workforce is set to shift dramatically through to the decade, with a new report form Scotland’s Robert Gordon University (RGU) predicting almost half of the 200,000 people expected to be employed by the sector by 2030 drawing paycheques from the offshore wind industry, as oil & gas personnel transition to the clean-energy jobs.

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RGU’s UK Offshore Energy Workforce Transferability Review highlights that roles in decarbonised energies foreseen growing from 20% to 65% of all jobs in the offshore energy sector, including oil & gas, offshore wind, carbon capture and storage and hydrogen.

Around 100,000 of the jobs in 2030 are expected to be filled by those transferring from oil & gas jobs to renewables, along with new graduates and recruitment from outside the existing UK offshore energy sector.

“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,” said Professor Paul de Leeuw, director of RGU’s Energy Transition Institute and the study’s lead author.

“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.”

“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.”

The UK’s minister for just transition, employment and fair work, Richard Lochhead, stated: “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.”

The report spotlighted “significant” opportunities for the energy supply chain, with over £170bn ($240bn) investment in capital and operating expenditure in the UK offshore energy sector over the next ten years.

And it warned that without the UK and the devolved governments working together with industry and the higher education sector “to ensure the managed transition of skills and experience”, Britain risked “accelerated decline in the oil & gas industry [that] could reduce the offshore energy workforce requirements to fewer than 140,000 jobs [from current levels of 160,000] 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,” said de Leeuw.

Specialist recruitment agency Ventus International’s managing director, Michael Lynch, said the review’s findings “further underline the huge potential and urgent requirement for transfer of talent from the conventional energy industry into emerging [offshore] sectors” and the “bold levels of commitment” need for the opportunity not to be squandered.

“The existing talent pool within oil & gas is an obvious competitive advantage the UK already has to help it maintain its global leadership position within the offshore wind sector. If the UK is to meet its ambitious 2030 offshore wind objectives, timely project delivery is key and this demands wider uptake and adoption of transferable skills than has been evident to date.

“Whilst some progress has already been made in terms of cross industry transfer, further coordinated efforts are required to avoid the loss of significant skills transfer potential,” said Lynch.

“An integrated, joined up approach is required to ensure a transition investment strategy which places industrially relevant training and competency development at its core. The greater the investment now, the less costly it will be longer term and any investment needs to be underpinned by a commitment to industrial placement, resulting in accreditation and competency assurance.”