The budget, with its help for the North Sea oil and gas industry, made no impact on the opinion polls nationwide. It would have been interesting to see what the results of said polls would have been if the polls have been held exclusively in Aberdeen.
The oil majors are quietly reassessing their operations in the area and the news earlier this year that Shell was pulling the plug on the Brent field, allied to similar stories elsewhere, shows that, as always, the market decides. Now, E.on, the huge German energy company, has announced it too is preparing to pull out of the North Sea, adding its name to those of Total, ConocoPhillips, BP and the aforementioned Shell as major oil companies seeking to reduce their stake in the UKCS as a result of the slump in the oil price.
As reported in the Business Telegraph, E.on’s move “follows a deal by German rival RWE to sell its €5.1bn oil and gas unit to Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman”. In addition, “Total is looking to sell a 20pc stake in its flagship Laggan-Tormore deepwater gas field west of the Shetland, Shell is looking at selling “significant parts” of its Anasuria, Nelson and Sean Fields, ConocoPhillips is considering options for its 24pc stake in BP-operated Clair field while independent EnQuest is offloading a 20pc stake in Kraken, according to 1Derrick”. None of this is good news for the UK’s energy industry.
What does this mean for recruiters? Well, in Aberdeen it’s not good news. It hasn’t been for some time, with recruitment consultancies effectively competing with their clients and forced to accept a lowest common denominator fee or get no business.
However, every cloud, or should it be oilfield, has a silver lining. For years now, recruiters – both agencies and in-house – have been scouring the rest of the UK and further afield for those scarce engineers, technicians and support staff to fill vacancies, often contractor vacancies, that existed in droves in Aberdeen. Now, the flow is in the opposite direction. There is still a major shortage of engineers in this country and being intelligent men and women those whose jobs are under threat in north-east Scotland will go where the jobs are.
Equally importantly, the skills learned in the North Sea industry – whether in mechanical, electrical, maintenance or production engineering, or in IT/computing or indeed support services generally – are immensely transferrable. We are already seeing a trickle of great candidates, not just for the downstream and other related industries, but also for clients in other areas. The UK’s serious shortage of engineers means that the opportunities for candidates and clients alike are immense – it’s up to everyone to seize them!
Tom Burns, Account Executive, 9-20 Energy