An increasing demand for energy has created an unprecedented number of jobs in the oil industry. From roustabout roles for those with no formal qualifications to oil engineer roles for those with engineering degrees, this industry boasts a broad range of job opportunities.
Roustabouts perform unskilled manual labouring jobs on oil rigs and platforms. They help to keep the rigs and platforms working efficiently by moving supplies and equipment to work sites and keeping drilling equipment in working order.
Technicians play a crucial role in the production of oil and in maintaining the systems used in its extraction. They may work under supervision to start up, control and monitor oil production processes or may help to maintain complex mechanical, electrical and instrumental control systems.
Oil engineers evaluate sites that contain oil, calculate the amount of oil that can be recovered, and supervise operations until oil wells are exhausted.
The entry qualifications for offshore oil industry jobs vary, depending on the tasks to be carried out.
Prospective roustabouts can enter into employment in the absence of formal academic qualifications. However, many employers seek people with relevant work experience, such as that gained through working in the construction industry. Roustabouts receive at least two weeks’ onshore training before being provided with further on-the-job training on an offshore oil rig or platform.
Prospective technicians can secure themselves a place on an apprenticeship called an Upstream Oil and Gas Industry Technician Training Programme. Such programmes are run by colleges and training providers in Edinburgh, Middlesbrough and Aberdeen on behalf of the Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organization and the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board. Applicants are usually required to have least four GCSEs, including English, maths and science. Some people choose to enter the training programme following completing science A levels or BTEC National Awards in Engineering. Upon completion of an Upstream Oil and Gas Industry Technician Training Programme, workers are awarded a Higher National Certificate (HNC) and an NVQ Level 3 in Engineering Maintenance or Processing Operations: Hydrocarbons.
Entry to oil engineer work is usually with an honours degree in offshore engineering or a related discipline. However, many employers seek people with a relevant postgraduate qualification. Entry to an honours degree course in engineering is usually with at two A levels in maths and science subjects and five GCSEs, including maths, science and English. Degrees with placements can be very helpful for those desiring careers in the oil industry. Newly qualified graduates wishing to become oil engineers usually join graduate training programmes. Engineers are almost always encouraged to work towards chartered engineer status, for which an accredited master’s degree in engineering is essential.
The minimum age for working in offshore jobs is 18. Candidates for training programmes must usually be at least 16.5 years of age, so that they are able to partake in offshore training once they turn 18 years of age.
Since all offshore workers are required to complete an offshore survival and fire-fighting course, candidates for offshore jobs may be required to pass a physical exam. For some jobs, height restrictions may apply.
In the UK, around 6,000 firms are involved in the oil industry and together they employ approximately 26,000 people to work offshore on mobile drilling rigs, floating production units and fixed production platforms. The UK offshore oil industry is mainly located off the east coast of Scotland and England. However, there are also oil rigs and platforms in the Irish Sea and to the west of the Shetland Islands. Many companies operate across the globe, making it possible for skilled offshore workers to find employment overseas.
The offshore working pattern is grueling and requires employees to work 12 hours on and 12 hours off for two weeks, followed by two weeks’ leave ashore. Workers may only be able to travel to and from the rig or platform on which they are working by helicopter.
Sometimes, shift patterns require employees to work away from home for a month at a time or longer. Employees usually have to share their offshore living quarters with their colleagues.
Working offshore can be very demanding and requires great strength and stamina. Duties typically involve working at heights in all weather conditions. Due to the nature of their work, they must wear protective clothing, such as gloves, goggles, overalls and hard hats, at all times.
Oil drilling roustabouts may earn around £18,000 a year. Newly-qualified oil technicians and graduate engineers, on the other hand, may earn around £35,000 a year. Higher salaries are likely to be paid to those working in dangerous locations. In addition to a basic salary, employees may receive money to cover the cost of travelling to and from the oil rig or platform on which they are working.
Job opportunities for offshore workers in the oil industry are expected to increase in the coming years. Due to the working conditions and amount of time spent away from home, employee turnover rates are relatively high. There is also a need for school leavers and new graduates to replace older workers