The battle lines are being drawn for a recruitment fight between the oil and gas sector and the renewables industry.
Malcolm Webb, chief executive of trade body Oil and Gas UK, has said that his sector must act now to stop top university graduates being poached by renewable firms.
Mr Webb said it was vital the oil and gas business raised its profile if it hoped to recruit and retain the best people.
“The problem at the moment is that the offshore oil and gas industry is not known about,” he said. “We say it is Britain’s best-kept industrial secret. The fact that the industry has an image problem is a growing concern. We need to continue to raise the profile of oil and gas in order to keep attracting skilled people, especially in areas that have to compete with renewables.”
Mr Webb was speaking at an Oil and Gas UK briefing in Aberdeen, where he revealed a survey commissioned to gauge public knowledge of the sector found that 71% of Londoners thought the UK got the majority of its oil either wholly or mainly from abroad.
“The results of this survey appear to suggest that there are still too many people who don’t realise how much of the UK’s energy supply comes from our own oil and gas production – and a significant number who think we import most of our oil and gas from abroad,” said Mr Webb.
“Our own oil and gas provides this country with about three quarters of its total energy supply – and will continue to do so well into the coming decades and for a lot longer than many people realise. Therefore, this industry needs to do more to embed this in the public’s consciousness.
“Indeed, failure to get these messages across could have serious long-term consequences for investment and growth.”
Mr Webb’s call for action comes as oil and gas training organisation Opito projected there were 12,000 contractors needed in the sector from the Aberdeen region and across the UK.
On the back of Opito’s prediction, contractor provider Brookson has warned that the oil and gas sector must be ready to meet the need for these 12,000 workers.
Martin Hesketh, managing director of Brookson, said: “Aberdeen is one of the UK’s engineering contractor capitals because of the oil and gas industry but businesses in the sector need to prepare now to seize the opportunities available in 2011 and beyond.
“The opportunity for the engineering contractor market in Aberdeen and across the UK is for end suppliers and recruiters to take the necessary steps to ensure that the 12,000 contractors needed over the next three years are found from the UK to avoid the work going abroad.”