Mobilising a new offshore workforce to navigate the clean energy transition

22 DECEMBER 2022

By James Gregg, Chief Operating Officer @ Motive Offshore Group

Offshore Wind Farm Nicholas Doherty

We are at risk of a major skills shortage across the energy industry due to the accelerating transition towards clean energy and the technological transformation of the offshore sector. The planned expansion of offshore wind, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage and North Sea oil and gas production across the industry will require some 40,000 extra UK workers by 2030, including new digital and renewable skills. This comes at a time when the energy sector already has a significant talent shortage caused by under-investment in entry-level training and a lack of recruitment from outside industries. Efforts to transition workers from traditional sectors such as oil and gas to clean energy have been hindered by regulations and the pandemic. So, how can the industry quickly find the skilled workers it needs?

The challenge

There’s an urgent need to expand and diversify the offshore energy workforce by changing the industry’s training and recruitment model to attract fresh talent from universities and other industries, such as agriculture and aviation. Most importantly, the sector must work on transitioning its image to one that is values-driven, eco-conscious and tech-savvy. The UK currently has an ageing energy workforce and attracting new renewable and digital skills has also proved challenging for a sector historically perceived as carbon-intensive and technologically traditional. Despite the offering of increasingly attractive salaries and career prospects, just 12% of the current workforce is under 30. Creating a strong foundation of skills for the future will require the industry to attract a new talent influx from universities and outside industries, whilst also prioritising apprenticeships and trainees. For example, with support from the government, offshore energy apprenticeships for public funding can become a reality, allowing for more industry investment in trainees and apprentices.

Time to transform the available talent

Attracting fresh talent will also mean appealing to millennial and Gen Z workers, who value opportunities for self-advancement and the ability to make a meaningful change in society. One way to do so is through offering fast-track routes to career progression and the opportunity to drive new sustainable innovations. For example, Motive’s Learning and Development team recently upskilled all technicians to transition from oil and gas to renewables, allowing for accelerated career progression. Research also suggests the new generation of energy employees often choose companies that support values such as sustainability, innovation, and workforce wellbeing. Rethinking workplace benefits is also important, with workers valuing mental health first aid and family-friendly hours.

The industry could also accelerate career progression by enabling more opportunities for internal transfers. For example, 90% of the offshore oil and gas workforce has skills overlapping with sectors such as offshore wind. At Motive, our technical workforce now works across both our fossil fuel and clean energy projects, equipping workers with transferrable skills and allowing for future career development opportunities. There are also many outside industries with surprising skills synergies that could provide a ready-made talent stream. For example, much of our technical workforce now working across 23 offshore wind projects is drawn from industries as diverse as defence, construction, and agriculture.

The offshore energy workforce of the future

As we look towards the future and move towards clean energy, we need to completely overhaul historical hiring models and throw the door open to entry-level workers and talent from outside industries. The pivotal role of the offshore energy sector in global decarbonisation efforts now offers an exciting opportunity to attract a new generation that values sustainable innovation and flexible, remote working. Promising young talent could be given the chance to drive decarbonisation and digitalisation across the industry, accelerating our progression to energy security and climate targets, while cultivating a new belief-driven workforce.