Aberdeen The Scottish Capital Of Growth & Employment
Aberdeen is one of the UK's economic hotspots, with its key role in the oil and gas industry helping it to achieve low unemployment and high output levels.
While much of the country suffered badly during the economic downturn of recent years, Aberdeen continued to thrive thanks to the money flowing in from beneath the North Sea. There are usually hundreds of jobs available in the offshore sector in North-Eastern Scotland, many of them highly paid, and demand for staff is so strong, oil and engineering companies have to recruit people from across the UK and even from overseas to fill all their vacancies.
Any internet search for jobs in Aberdeen will return employment opportunities for qualified mechanical, electrical and structural engineers, piping designers, instrument technicians and maintenance specialists. There are also openings for commercial staff, as well as for workers at the busy heliport and port that support the North Sea oil and gas fields.
The oil boom began when the commodity was discovered in the northern region of the UK Continental Shelf in 1969, and Aberdeen soon became the main centre of activity for the industry in the country. As offshore operations grew, energy companies started to establish offices and onshore terminals in the city and surrounding area, creating both technical and commercial jobs.
It is estimated that 38 billion barrels of oil have been extracted from the North Sea fields since the 1970s, which has helped to create prosperity in Aberdeen and made a substantial contribution to the UK's tax income. Peak production in the area has already passed, but oil companies believe there are more than 20 billion barrels left in the fields and the sector is likely to remain strong for many more years.
The most obvious benefit to the local economy is high levels of employment. Official statistics show that 76.2% of people of working age in Aberdeen City are in employment, along with 79.5% in Aberdeenshire. The figure for Scotland is 70.8%, while in the UK as a whole it is just 70.5%.
Many of the jobs in the oil and gas industry are highly-skilled, which has had another benefit for the area's employment statistics. The average weekly wage for full-time workers in Aberdeen in 2012 was £574.90, compared with £497.60 for Scotland and £507.60 in the UK.
It is difficult to put an exact figure on how many jobs oil and gas supports in the Aberdeen area, although 23,500 people, equivalent to 10.3% of the workforce, are employed directly by the industry. It has been estimated that a further 82,000 people work locally in the supply chain, which would mean the sector accounted for 46% of jobs in the area.
All this is reflected in the Gross Value Added (GVA) figure for North-Eastern Scotland, the region made up of Aberdeen City and Shire, which was £31,944 per head in 2011 (the most recent period for which figures are available). That means Inner London is the only region of the UK more prosperous than Aberdeen. The extent of the oil and gas sector's impact on the local economy can be seen by comparing its GVA with Scotland's, which was just £20,571 per head.
It is easy to understand why, as a survey conducted by Scottish Business Insider found that oil and gas companies contributed 50.8% of the total profits of Scotland's 500 largest firms in 2012. The research also discovered that despite tough economic conditions last year, Scotland's oil and gas sector saw profits climb by 27.4% and employee numbers rise by 10%.
The magazine named Aberdeen-based Total Upstream UK as Scotland's second largest company, after its profits climbed to £1.72 billion, while Chevron North Sea was fifth on the list after reporting profits of £1.15 billion. Suncor Energy, another business with a major presence in Aberdeen was placed eighth with profits of £786.8 million.
They are far from the only global oil exploration or offshore equipment and services suppliers with operations in the area. Experienced engineering, technical and commercial staff looking for work in North-Eastern Scotland may also find opportunities with BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Halliburton, Apache, Canadian Natural Resources and Maersk Oil, which all employ hundreds of people.
The idea that the UK's North Sea oil fields have passed peak production seems to have done little to deter the major companies from investing in Aberdeen and a number of them have opened new offices or expanded existing operations in recent years. GDF Suez, natural gas giant BG Group and offshore engineering specialists Subsea7, Technip and Aker are among the firms to have strengthened their presences in the area.