Skills gap will push oil workers’ pay to £73,600

Oil worker on the Nelson North Sea Oil Field. Picture: Hamish Campbell
Oil worker on the Nelson North Sea Oil Field. Picture: Hamish Campbell
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Oil workers in the North Sea are looking forward to a pay rise of 15 per cent this year, taking average wages to £73,600 and sparking fears that operations are becoming too expensive.

A survey of more than 1,000 companies by jobs website found that 70 per cent of employers in the sector were worried that wages were rising too fast because of a shortage of skilled workers.

Investment in UK oil and gas is expected to hit record levels of about £13 billion this year but firms have seen their returns fall by 80 per cent in the last decade because of rising costs. In part that is due to the difficulty of extracting oil from mature and remote fields, but also because a skills shortage has been driving up wages in the industry.

The forecast wage rises come on top of improvements to terms and conditions, and the fact that 61 per cent of workers have received a pay rise in the last few months.

Kevin Forbes, chief executive of, said: “Lack of supply and increased demand for qualified staff is putting huge inflationary pressure on wages in the industry, which is already seeing big rises in the first quarter of 2013.

“Terms and conditions are increasing at the same time as companies try to compete for a dwindling number of skilled staff.”

Reasons given for the shortage of suitable staff included a historic lack of investment in apprenticeships due to an assumption that North Sea Oil was in decline. The industry did not expect the success of new technology that allows them to recover lower-grade oil, so recent growth and investment caught UK firms by surprise.

However, many firms also said that British staff were being lured to work in booming oil areas overseas.