New Labour Forecasting Tool predicts hike in demand for oil and gas workers in West of Shetland basin

Offshore oil workers

A NEW Labour Forecasting Tool (LFT) launched today is predicting a significant increase in demand for workers in the West of Shetland oil and gas basin.

The new resource, the “first of its kind” to focus on the engineering construction industry (ECI), provides insights into workforce numbers across regions and sectors, including oil and gas, up to 2035, predicting trends and potential future demand for workers.  

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It predicts the demand for new workers across the engineering construction industry by 2028 is much higher than previously thought. This includes mechanical and electrical engineers, scaffolders, process engineers, project managers, pipefitters, welders, and instrument and control technicians.

The LFT has been developed by the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) and Whole Life Consultants with the support of a technical reference group comprising key industry stakeholders.  

The tool has been created using insights from the ECITB 2021 Workforce Censusand data from 1,500 active and future ECI projects. 

Among its initial findings, the LFT highlights that demand for oil and gas activity could shift significantly from the North Sea to the West of Shetland basin. Projects in this region could drive up to 20% of the demand for workers in the oil and gas sector by 2035. 

The oil and gas sector is the largest in which engineering construction contractors operate, accounting for 32% of the ECI workforce in 2023.

However, the tool shows this could fall to 20% by 2035 due to a combination of a rise in other ECI sectors and a decline in production, with the LFT predicting a 30% decline in the oil and gas workforce between 2023 and 2035. These predictions are, however, based on data from the pipeline of projects known at this point in time.

ECITB Chief Executive Andrew Hockey said: “The Labour Forecasting Tool is a first of its kind. Using data on this scale has not been done before in the ECI and will enable us to build a picture of future labour needs.

“Our Leading Industry Learning Strategy 2023-25 focuses on tackling the critical challenges and helping industry to prepare for a boom in project activity for engineering construction employers.

“Attracting new entrants is a key priority for industry and the ECITB, which is why half of the ECITB training grant budget is dedicated to new entrants.

“Through the Regional Skills Hub funding, announced last week, we are also looking to grow capacity-building projects in the UK’s industrial heartlands that will directly increase the flow of workers into the industry.  

“Clearly more needs to be done to address skills shortages and requires a truly collaborative approach with employers, governments, training providers and the ECITB all working together.

“Having this new source of evidence will better inform decision-making about what we do and how we support the industry to address these labour needs.

“The LFT also highlights the importance of the data we get from the ECITB’s workforce Census– our bi-annual survey that goes out to every employer. Next year’s census will help us further refine the tool and the data going forward.”

The LFT is designed as a resource for exploring workforce trends in the ECI, whichoperates across the oil, gas, renewables, hydrogen, and carbon capture sectors, as well as other process industries, such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food processing, water and waste treatment, as well as the nuclear sector.

The current version of the LFT contains forecast demand data by region, sector and occupational group. 

One of the key highlights is that around 40,000 additional workers could be needed across the ECI by 2028, which would represent a 28% increase in demand in the next five years. The tool also shows that nearly 8,000 additional workers could potentially be needed to meet demand in 2024 alone.

In addition to quarterly updates of the underlying project data and updates to the tool will take place after the ECITB 2024 ECI Workforce Census.

Find out more about the Labour Forecasting Tool here: Labour Forecasting Tool Overview – ECITB

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