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Oil & Gas: Britain's ever-evolving sector

Career opportunities in the UK's oil and gas sector are set to boom as the industry ramps up investment to a projected 22 billion in 2013. This is the biggest investment boom the British oil industry has experienced since the heady days of the 1970s, when the first huge oil fields were discovered and the first production platforms and pipelines were constructed. Not only will this investment generate jobs for highly qualified and experienced professionals such as engineers and geologists, but roustabouts, tool pushers and welders will be even more in demand. These are the skills that keep the industry running. At Anderselite, we believe that further job opportunities are likely to appear onshore as exploration for shale gas gathers pace.

Reversing the Decline
Britain is the European Union's largest oil and gas producer and holds most of the EU's proven oil and gas reserves together with an extensive infrastructure and undersea pipeline network. This industry already provides 450,000 jobs in the UK and contributes 15 per cent of the Treasury's revenues. The latest jobs boom comes from tax measures designed to encourage further investment in the North Sea, where oil and gas production has been in decline since 1999. In that year, the North Sea produced 4 million barrels per day of oil equivalent (a combination of oil and gas production) compared with just 1.5 million barrels of oil equivalent today.

The decline in output came about as the large oil fields discovered in the 1970s were depleted, while high levels of taxation in Britain meant that oil companies took their capital investment elsewhere, to places such as West Africa, Asia and South America. The British oil and gas industry is now experiencing a "second wind" and is targeting both smaller fields and hard to develop oil and gas reserves.

Jobs Dilemma
All of this has left the industry with a jobs dilemma. Plenty of fresh graduates are coming out of universities hoping to find a job in the oil industry. But there is a shortage of seasoned professionals - those with between five and 10 years of oil and gas experience because of the last decade of low investment when graduates sought jobs in other industries. So the oil and gas industry is seeking to tempt experienced engineers and other professionals from other industries - such as the power generation and nuclear energy industry and the mining and the defence sectors - and retrain them.

Fitness Needed for Offshore Work
Jobs on offshore oil platforms need fit as well as experienced people. The working rota is typically 12 hours on and12 hours off over a period of two to three weeks. Sometimes, the offshore working period can last four weeks. Personnel then take two to three weeks leave onshore before resuming work on the same rota.

A typical crew on an offshore platform consists of between 50 and 100 men and women. Specialists arrive for shorter stays of between days and weeks, depending on the stage in drilling and production. Facilities on board are good and include gyms, video shows and games. The food is excellent. One of the most common leisure time pursuits on offshore platforms in the 1970s was fishing. This is still possible on some of the older platforms. Smoking is completely banned anywhere on an oil platform for obvious safety reasons.  Mobile phones tend not to work on these platforms but satellite communications mean that this will improve.

Nevertheless, this is not an environment for anyone who wants to stick with a nine-to-five routine, five days a week. Travel to and from the oil platforms is by helicopter and weather conditions can be tough during winter and spring. Despite the dangers of working in a tough environment with flammable materials and heavy equipment, the British offshore oil industry's safety record has been excellent, both for employees and the environment.

Some of the jobs that may be on offer in the near future include:

Roustabout. This is the entry-level job for anyone working on an oil rig or platform, onshore or offshore. The responsibilities are general housekeeping and equipment handling as instructed by more experienced crew members. The minimum age to work offshore is 18. Candidates have to pass an offshore survival test and a two-yearly medical examination. No university qualifications are required but a couple of A Levels or Highers are recommended.  Crane operators who are qualified to work on building sites onshore can find new and similar opportunities offshore, where training will be supplied by the rig or platform contractor.

Toolpushers. After a few years, roustabouts can advance to toolpusher jobs where they have to manage teams of workers, supervise drilling operations and monitor repairs and maintenance. Senior toolpushers report directly to the rig manager, the most senior person on board. This job needs computer, communications and leadership skills.

Welders. An offshore welding job is all about maintaining subsea pipelines.  You need first to be a certified welder in an onshore job before applying for a position offshore. A commercial diving certificate is also necessary. Anyone with welding experience can acquire the diving experience and certificates at a diving school.


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