Skilled Shortage Create Offshore Opportunities

10th January 2002
Retirements from an ageing workforce will see the offshore industry lose 75 per cent of its knowledge over the next decade, a senior industry figure has warned. Roger Colmer, global staff manager of Shell Exploration and Production, told business people and educationalists in Great Yarmouth that the average age of people working in this division was 46. “This means that within ten years we will lose 25% of our workforce and they will take 75% of the knowledge with them,” said Mr Colmer at an industry breakfast at Great Yarmouth. “If I was a young person today I would be looking at this industry and thinking what great opportunities there are in engineering,” said Mr Colmer, who was general manager at Shell’s Lowestoft base for years. He believed one of the biggest problems the industry faced was people's perception of an engineer as someone who wore overalls and fixed washing machines. Engineers actually work across a whole range of disciplines and are among the most highly qualified people in industry with engineering graduates expecting to earn £18,000 a year within six months, £3,000 more than the average university graduate. “I don’t think industry has been active enough in telling young people about the prospects that exist in engineering,” said Mr Colmer. “We have got to get in earlier if we are to make engineering seem more attractive to young people. Some believe we should start as early as primary school.” Pro-Train project leader Jean Knight announced that a roadshow would be visiting eight schools in Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth beginning on February 25. The aim would be to encourage secondary school pupils to consider engineering as a career. “There is a major shortage of skilled and qualified people in this area and we have to do everything we can to make young people aware of the terrific opportunities in engineering,” she said. “We also have to persuade business people to forge closer links with local schools and colleges to ensure that teachers and pupils are better informed about the industry and the sort of skills it is looking for. “About 50% of the pupils in Yarmouth and Lowestoft will not go on to college and I think there is something dreadfully wrong there. We have to do everything in our power to help them acquire the training and qualifications that will lead them to rewarding careers.” David Brunton, headteacher of Great Yarmouth High School told business leaders that he needed them to work closely with his pupils to raise their aspirations. “Let them know that you are out there and that you can support them. We need the solid partnerships that you can provide.” They were congratulated by Great Yarmouth MP Tony Wright. He said if the area was to attract new companies and persuade existing businesses to expand it was vital to encourage students to develop the right skills. Source: Great Yarmouth Advertiser