OIL SECTOR 'TO CREATE 39,000 JOBS'

The oil and gas industry could create up to 39,000 new jobs across the UK in the next two years, research has suggested.

A survey of 100 companies working in the sector revealed the number of positions expected to be created is 5,000 higher than the total a year ago.

The research was carried out for the Bank of Scotland, which predicted the "largest share'' of the new jobs would be north of the border.

Stuart White, Bank of Scotland commercial area director, said: "The findings of this report are excellent news for the economy, demonstrating the employment generating nature of the oil and gas industry now and in the future.

"With most of the UK's oil and gas firms clustered in Aberdeen and the north-east, Scotland should reap the largest share of these new jobs, however other parts of the UK will benefit from expansion plans.''

The research is the bank's third annual report on the oil and gas sector, with UK firms questioned about their future prospects for 2014 and 2015.

More than two thirds (69%) are confident of growth over the next 24 months, though this is down from 77% last year.

More firms are now concerned they could suffer as a result of a lack of skilled workers, with 38% saying a skills shortage is the greatest challenge they will face in this year - up from 33% last year.

The availability of skilled workers is the most pressing amongst engineering firms, with 87% concerned about this, compared to the 20% of firms involved in exploration and production that regard this as an issue.

64% of firms identified international expansion as a priority, up 5% from the previous year. Africa is the priority market for 21%, while 17% are targeting growth in North America and 18% are focusing on the Middle East.

Almost half (48%) of firms described themselves as being "moderately to intensely interested'' in opportunities from onshore shale gas, while 36% said they are interested in diversifying into renewable energy.

Mr White said the report "highlights the growing challenges posed by the lack of a skilled workforce'', but added: "Positive action is under way to address this shortfall, with new partnerships between higher education institutions and industry as well as the creation of new specialist apprenticeship schemes.

"The results also demonstrate the global nature of the industry as more firms look to expand internationally and tap into the markets with the largest levels of recoverable reserves. With 44% of income already generated internationally, this is not a new trend, and reflects the reach UK firms have as the industry benefits from the expertise gained in the challenging North Sea environment.''