June 2019
SPE Offshore Europe Preview

Creating the right jobs will ensure Vision 2035 succeeds

Interview with Deirdre Michie, Chief Executive, OGUK

World Oil (WO): What factors are causing job numbers to increase?

OGUK Chief Executive Deirdre Michie
OGUK Chief Executive Deirdre Michie

Deirdre Michie (DM): We’ve worked really hard to improve the industry’s competitiveness. We’ve reduced costs and improved efficiencies. As a result, investment is being attracted back to the basin, with 13 projects sanctioned last year, and one so far in 2019. The emphasis is on encouraging these projects to get over the line and start moving. There’s a direct link between the hard work the industry has done, and the fact that we’re starting to see activity increasing.

WO: What jobs will be required, as opposed to three or four years ago?

DM: We’re in a transition, with a shift in the types of jobs as the industry embraces technology and does more in digitalization and AI. Of course, the OPITO and RGU study last year identified 10,000 new roles that would be required in the future, but we don’t quite know what those will be. That’s why we must learn from other industries that are employing data specialists and all sorts of people.

WO: Will companies be back to contractors, or will it be salary employment?

DM: Industry learned some tough lessons. Companies are trying hard to sustain salary employment. Now, business models do require a bit of flexibility, so companies will continue to use the contracting model but not with such enthusiasm!

WO: Is Oil and Gas UK concerned about the skills gap returning?

DM: We hear that there are issues, but in specific areas like scaffolding, rather than the whole industry. We are competing with other sectors and some big capital projects across the country. So, there are concerns about making sure we have the right skills, in the right place, at the right time. When we speak to our members, they say that people are still attracted and want to join this industry. They see that from the numbers and quality of applications they receive.

WO: Why are workforce issues such a key topic at OE this year?

DM: The title of the session I am chairing is Securing Generation 2035, and it recognizes that the industry is going through a transition. As we look ahead to Vision 2035, what does it mean, and how do we make sure that we’ve got the right skills to address the changing environment? We see a changing, more dynamic industry around us, with AI and technology being utilized. We also need to make sure that we are an attractive, diverse and inclusive industry that retains and attracts people. Our panel has invited our graduate and apprentice of the year, as well as an alumnus of the future leaders’ program.

WO: What would you say to young people, or people mid-life looking for a career change?

DM: I would say, look at the people in the industry who have had diverse careers and don’t just go with your perception. Be curious about the roles that are out there. Go see what the opportunities are.

WO: Does your career in oil and gas serve as a model of the opportunities out there?

DM: I’ve had an extraordinary, very diverse career. I joined Shell as a graduate trainee and worked my way through numerous roles in commercial, communications and supply chain. I’ve worked downstream and upstream, and now I’m in this role. I’ve enjoyed very interesting roles, and I’m not alone. Many of us have had the benefit of working for a dynamic, progressive industry.

WO: Is that message clear within and outside the industry?

DM: That’s a really good point. Sometimes, we believe our own negativity, so there’s a role for us to highlight the opportunities there are, internally and externally. That’s one of the things Oil and Gas UK is looking to do this year, is champion diverse and interesting careers. 

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