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UK energy industry grapples with ageing workforce and the shift to renewables

An ageing workforce represents the greatest challenge to the energy industry in the UK according to new research from leading global energy recruitment specialists Oil and Gas Jobsearch and Brunel.

The research was based on almost 17,000 responses from energy professionals worldwide. The survey was divided into seven global regions: Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Africa and Australasia. 80% of the responses received in Europe came from professionals and companies based in the UK.

46% of responses – which included companies and recruiters as well as workers – identified skills shortages resulting from an ageing workforce as the biggest issue facing the industry.

A further 38% said the ongoing shift away from oil and gas towards renewables presented a key challenge.


The most common cause of skills shortages, cited by 48% of recruiters, was quality of education and training, followed by loss of expertise due to an ageing workforce, mentioned by 40%.

Environmental consciousness, meanwhile, was mentioned by 27% of recruiters as a recruitment challenge. This was the highest figure anywhere in the world, and compares to a global average of 19%.

Skills shortages are potentially set to get worse, with 41% of respondents in Europe saying they would consider leaving the industry within five years. This was slightly below the global average of 43% but significantly higher than the corresponding figure for Africa, which was just 31%.

The two most commonly mentioned factors that would lead European, and UK, workers to consider leaving the industry were low salary and personal lifestyle changes. These were identified respectively by 27% and 24% of those surveyed.

To address skills shortages, 51% of respondents in Europe said their companies were investing in training and development of their existing workforce. This was higher than the global average of 24% but behind Asia’s figure of 60%.

Meanwhile, more than a third – 34% – reported that their companies were targeting transferable skills from other industries.

This was the highest figure in the world for seeking out talent from outside the industry, with only North America – on 32% – coming close. The global average, which would have been significantly lower without Europe and North America, was 21%.

“Companies in the energy industry are currently facing an enormous challenge to position themselves as an attractive employer in a sector that’s often seen as a negative contributor to the future of the planet. To be successful in attracting the next generation of talented specialists, a focus on innovation, new technology and digitalisation will be key. Timing is also important, as is connecting with young people and delivering the right messages before they select their future studies.”

Nicole Kirleis, Global Head Marketing & Communication; Brunel

“Engaging new talent and re-engaging pre-existing talent can also combat the skills shortage. Employers in the industry can focus more of their attention on amplifying their company values towards climate change, training and development, diversity, and inclusivity in the workforce.”

Gareth Ford, Business Development Manager; Oil and Gas Jobsearch

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