FutureWork podcast : A new pipeline of energy jobs?

Scotland needs to move quickly to create a new pipeline of digitally-focused clean energy jobs to make up for significant losses in the oil and gas industry.

An estimated 10-12,000 jobs were lost in oil and gas in 2020 alone - with a further potential spike this year when furlough ends.

Many new data-focused roles will be created in emerging areas like hydrogen and carbon capture & storage, as well as offshore and onshore wind - but can these roles be created rapidly enough to make up for the sharp decline in oil and gas employment?

Audrey MacIver, Director of Energy and Low Carbon at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: "I think in the areas of blue or green hydrogen production, there are real similarities [to oil and gas] in terms of the skill sets required.

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"If we go offshore, we're looking at more floating solutions to support offshore wind deployment. The sub-structures supporting floating wind are very similar to structures supporting oil and gas platforms in the North Sea.The skills and expertise already exist and again can be readily transferred into floating wind foundations.

“If we look at the repurposing of existing oil and gas infrastructure, in terms of the geo-technicians, the well specialists, they too will be needed for the hydrogen market as that evolves in terms of understanding seabed conditions and well capacity, for storage of hydrogen."

Rob Orr, Strategic Relations Manager for Energy at Skills Development Scotland, said: "With the expected increase in the use of hydrogen and CCS, there will be heightened demand for labour, and technical skills in, for example, the collection and treatment of waste gas, the conversion of existing networks and reengineering of pipelines."

Jennifer Macdonald, Sector Development and Skills Planning Manager (Oil and Gas) at Skills Development Scotland, said there was still demand for oil and gas jobs.

"Currently our forecasts indicate that we're going to need 9900 individuals to fill energy sector openings, by 2030, within Scotland, and many of those are still going to be within the oil and gas sector," she added.

And there are huge opportunities in decommissioning oil and gas infrastructure, she explained: "Our Scottish Skills Review found at its peak, decommissioning could directly employ between 9,000 and 12,000 people in Scotland.

"The study indicated the decommissioning sector was employing individuals on a contractor basis as a temporary solution to fill skills gaps due to uncertainties in project timings, but we're now hearing specialised decommissioning firms are hiring on a permanent basis - due to increased certainty and continuity of projects."

Macdonald said there was lots of work going on to identify the "In-demand skills" that the future energy sector would need - the 'unknown unknowns' of the future workplace.

And Rob Orr said the energy sector had to move fast to address the impact of oil and gas job losses.

"Some of those technologies are definitely still being tested, while others are advancing fairly quickly, such as the use of hydrogen. As job losses are being felt in the oil and gas sector already, there are concerns about that time lag between what is happening now, and job opportunities in the future."

FutureWork is available on Anchor FM, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Apple Podcasts.