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Blog: Delivering on the great skills change in energy

I’d missed the news that the University of Calgary was suspending new admissions to their bachelor's program in oil and gas engineering. Imperial College London has suspended both their Petroleum Geoscience and Petroleum Engineering MSc whilst developing a new course Geo-Energy with machine learning and data science.

The energy industry is full speed into its transition. As it’s clear that we’ll need oil for the foreseeable future, the industry is entering challenging waters as it works through which legacy and new skills it will need and in what volume, as it transforms.  When will the tipping point be, when traditional oil and gas skills will be in less demand than new energy skills? Mercer’s 2021 North American Energy Transition Survey reported that while natural gas, carbon capture and renewable energy headcounts will increase by double-digit percentages between now and 2030, upstream oil & gas headcount will drop between 5-10% suggesting a gradual decline in demand for legacy upstream skills. I’d be concerned given the news of petroleum engineering course suspensions that there may be insufficient supply of upstream skills entering the industry.

And it’s not just the course suspensions. It’s also the industry’s attractiveness.  Universum’s 2022 most attractive UK employers for engineering student’s research had only three oil and gas companies in the top 100 most attractive employer brands. And for IT students there was only one oil & gas company in the top 100. 

There is an urgent need for the energy industry to answer the “What skills will we need as we transform” question as well as “How will we attract both legacy skills and new skills that are required to drive the energy transition?”  And what about the ‘when’, the timing for reskilling, upskilling and attracting and developing new skills?

Well, I think the time to answer these questions is now.

One in three energy employees believe that their organisation has insufficient skills to execute on their transformation agenda according to Mercer’s 2022 Global Talent Trends – Energy report. And energy executives also recognize this challenge with one in three acknowledging their workforce lacks the capability and skills needed to drive their transformation agenda. It’s encouraging that energy C-Suite and Employees are, at least, aligned.

The industry has been talking about the Great Crew Change for over a decade. The language needs to change, the retirement demographic now having, mostly, worked its way through.  Instead, let’s talk about the Great Skills Change and address this challenge as an urgent industry priority.


I believe that insufficient skills will likely be the biggest barrier to a timely and successful transformation of the energy industry. All the strategies, plans and transformation agendas will remain aspirational if there are insufficiently skilled and capable employees in energy organisations equipped to drive and deliver.

It’s time for the energy industry to get serious about delivering the Great Skills Change.