Case study: Roles & responsibilities: An OPITO case study


Opito is the focal point for skills, learning and workforce development in the oil & gas industry. It aims to deliver the right skills for the industry now and in the future. OPITO was established to meet industry demand for a competent and competitive workforce. To achieve this it works with industry employers, training providers and higher education providers. Careers for life are now relatively rare in the UK. Individuals now have more varied career options, career progression routes and more opportunities. However, as technology is constantly changing, the workforce requires ongoing development to ensure employees have the correct skills to perform their job role effectively.

The oil and gas industry is a diverse sector that operates globally, both onshore and offshore. Over 400,000 people are employed in the UK industry alone with the majority of those employed onshore. Both offshore and onshore environments offer a wide variety of roles from drilling to design, accounts to engineering and HR to PR.

Meeting standards

All activity within the industry must conform to specified industry standards. These standards ensure a safe working environment for the oil and gas workforce. OPITO develop training standards in partnership with the industry and work closely with the training providers who deliver the courses to ensure that standards are maintained. OPITO therefore plays a strategic role in the oil and gas industry through workforce planning and skills development globally. OPITO works with industry employers to allow employees to engage in an ongoing process of professional development. This helps to ensure that organizations have appropriately skilled and qualified workers to helpmeet their business objectives.

This case study demonstrates how the right people with the right skills ensure that the sector can maximize the recovery of the remaining oil and gas reserves as well as remaining competitive and profitable.

Workforce planning

Image transcription text

Direct Exploration Direct Services Commercial & & Production Support Support Services (Primary
sector) Tertiary sector serving primary sector activity Geologist Chol Accountant Chemist Medic Lawyer
Structural Designer Health & Safety Graphic Designer Advisor

Workforce planningis a fundamental tool used by many organizations’. This involves estimating future workforce requirements in terms of both labour demand and skills to aid the achievement of business objectives. An appropriately skilled workforce is critical to an organizations short-term and long- term futurein order to remain competitive.

The industry requires a highly talented workforce, meaning the search for talent is extremely competitive. There are many factors affecting the employee marketplace, such as the UK’s ageing workforce and the need for appropriate skills and qualifications. These factors may contribute to future skills shortages as they reduce the pool of suitably qualified candidates that the oil and gas sectorcan recruit from.

Analyzing the skillsbase

OPITO has published a Labour Market Intelligence survey which analyses the current skills situation within the industry. This can be used as a workforce planning tool to identify future skills needs. In order to address these needs, the industry works closely with schools, colleges and universities to inform and influence pupil/student subject choices, in an attempt to widen the pool of talent.

As a technology-led business, the oil and gas industry is constantly changing and developing with roles following suit. However, attracting employees with the desired skills and abilities can be challenging across the sector. For example, increasingly oil is located in deeper waters and with this comes the challenge of accessing pipelines and structures safely. The role of Divers is now supplemented by the use of Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) for tasks including the inspection of pipelines and in continuing maintenance. The operation and control of ROVs requires specialist skills and knowledge at both Technician and Graduate level.

How technology is driving skills development

Companies require skilled people, in both on and offshore roles, in order to extract oil and gas safely, whilst acting environmentally responsibly and remaining profitable. Companies within the industry often employ contractors to fill specific short-term roles. This is often the case when there is a need to manage increased production levels or when the use of specialist equipment is required. Workforce planning is an important tool in this situation. Companies need to ensure the required skills are not already available through salaried staff before hiring contractors for the specific role.

As the oil and gas industry locates and explores previously challenging reservoirs, innovative technology is at the forefront. This is an integral part of a number of roles ranging from drilling to seismic interpretation. In order to keep pace with these advances a diverse range of core skills and competences are fundamental. In order to remain profitable and competitive the commercial angle must be considered in conjunction with the technical advances. Therefore within a project team a combination of both technical and commercial disciplines work closely together to ensure the project is viable. This may include Geologists, Seismologists, Accountants, Lawyers, Engineers and Analysts.

Functions of an organisation

The range of roles and departments within the industry and within individual organizations means that they must be divided into specialized functions in order to work effectively. There are several ways of doing this. For example, if the company is national or international it may be divided geographically, national companies may then be split by region whilst international companies may be split by continent. Some organizations within the industrydivide the companyby processes, such as exploration, production and refining.However most organizations use a combination of factors to divide the company up to ensure maximum efficiency. The range of functions and associated areas are varied,yet some are common to companies acrossthe sector:

  • Technical – includes a range of engineering disciplines, as well as geoscientists and designers
  • Science – monitoring the environment, locatingreservoirs and appraising wells
  • Health & safety – ensures the working environment is safe for employees in both the office and offshore environments
  • Commercial – includes marketing, logistics, accounts and law
  • Human resources – responsible for employees trainingand welfare.

There are a variety of routes into the industry. These include apprenticeships, university and college as well as from other trades and professions. For example, OPITO run a highly successful Technician TrainingScheme. The scheme trains apprentices in electrical, mechanical, process and instrument & control disciplines commonly used across the industry. As part of the four-year scheme an apprentice trains for two years at college before gaining two years of practical experience. Apprenticeships allow traineesto earn throughout their trainingwhile gaining relevant qualifications and experience in their chosen field.

Roles and responsibilities

To ensure employees work as efficiently as possible it is important to have clearly defined job roles and responsibilities. This is particularly important in large firms to ensure no part of the workload is overlooked. In smaller organisations job roles may be less structured as employees may be required to take on a variety of tasks and responsibilities.

Job descriptions

Clear job descriptions and personal remits enable workers to focus on their job-specific tasks. It allows employees to prioritise their workload and reduce the chance of work duplication. In the offshore environment, where safety is a key priority, defined roles and responsibilities ensure that workers are competent and qualified for the tasks they undertake.

Organizational structure and responsibility

The roles and responsibilities of each worker are overseen by supervisors, team leaders and managers. The number of workers that the supervisor is responsible for is called a span of control. The span of control will become wider as the number of employees being supervised increases. For example, an Offshore Installation Manager (OIM) is responsible for the complete running of the rig/platform and is accountable for the health and safety of everyone on-board. This means the OIM has a large span of control. However, a Tool Pusher, the department head in charge of the Drilling and Deck Crews, is accountable for the drilling staff and as such has a smaller span of control.


Image transcription text

Example of an offshore organisational hierarchy Oflahore Installation Manager Media Surety Operation
Maintenance Tool Pusher Advisor Team Leader Toarm Leader Duck Conbed Room Instrument Support
Special Eq Operson Technicians Technicians Techniciany Technicians Technicians Technicia… Show more

To allow for the supervision and management of workers organizations are divided by layers as well as department or functions. The smallest layer at the top of the organizational structure has more responsibility and accountability than the larger layers at the bottom.This forms an organizations hierarchy. A hierarchy establishes a chain of command. This allows information to be communicated from one layer of the organisation to the next. This information will pass through the span of controlin each layer. An exampleof this is when importantsafety information is passed from the OIM, down through the hierarchy to the Technicians. All job roles,from geological exploration to human resources, will fall within a hierarchy.

Roles within the oil &gas industry

The oil and gas industry offers many differentroles requiring differentskills in differentenvironments:

  • Kirsty, an Administration Assistant, is just starting her career in the oil & gas industry. Kirsty joined a contracting company straight from school and recommends the industry as a great place to work. Since joining the company she has begun a business and administration course. The course is funded by her employers and gives her the opportunity to widen her knowledge and develop her skills. It will allow Kirsty to work towards promotion to a supervisory role. In her current role Kirsty’s main responsibilities are liaising with customers, organising meetings and booking travel arrangements for managers.
  • David is a Reservoir Management Geologist working for a multinational exploration and production company. Davidjoined the industry 15 years ago, after leaving his career as a pilot and completing a master’s degree at university. David’s role includes supervising a small team to build and maintain field reservoir models. It also involves supervising interactions with other organisational functions such as ‘Well Planning’ to advise on the placement of new wells, which allow the oil to be extracted. Although David’s role as a supervisor throws up challenges he feels he is well rewarded with a good salary and work/life balance. This allows him to provide a secure future for his family.
  • Mark has held a number of offshore positions during his 28 years in the industry. He began as an OPITO apprentice on the Technician Training Scheme, where he spent two years at college and gave him a further 2 years on the job experience. Mark now holds one of the most responsible jobs in the industry as an OIM, based on a North Sea platform. He is accountable for 120 people working on the platform and has an operating budget of around £60 million.Whilst progressing through the industry he has gained lots of practical experiences and qualifications including an SVQ in supervisory management and management of major emergencies course. Mark enjoys the variety of his role as an OIM and is looking forward to continuing his career offshore for many years to come. Career progression at this level would mean moving to an onshore role.


Organisations within the oil & gas industry seek to extract resources efficiently, safely and profitably to serve world markets. To do this OPITO has developed standards which help to ensure processes meet these requirements. The industry requires talented and competent employees to ensure these standards are maintained. In order to do this, as well as employing directly, the industry often works with a number of contractors when specialist tasks or increased production demands it.

The industry supports many diverse roles. Not all roles within the industry require technical or scientific skills. Commercial skills are also essential for many of the roles based onshore. OPITO helps to support the industry through its role in workforce planning and skills development, helping to attract the next generation of the oil & gas workforce.

The rate of change within the industry is likely to increase over the next 50 years as the industry extracts oil from ever more challenging reservoirs in the North Sea and across the world. To contend with this rate of change, individuals will have the opportunity to develop new skills and competencies as they engage in the process of lifelong learning. OPITO’s role ensures that the oil & gas industry is capable of meeting future demands.

Discussion Questions

  1. Discuss the management practice issues in this case
  2. Discuss the factors that affect the oil and gas labour marketplace and using HR models, discuss

Complete Answer:

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