Future Skills

UKPIA believes the UK’s downstream oil sector can be a core contributor to tackling the Net-Zero challenge with our people at the heart of those efforts.

The downstream oil sector directly provided 124,000 jobs in 2016, almost 100,000 of which were at the UK’s 8,000+ petrol filling stations, while 24,000 were in other parts of the sector such as refineries, terminals and offices. (UKPIA Report)

When it comes to the skills of the work force, the oil refining sector in the UK is world class. 35% of the people working in oil refineries have a university degree, and 23% have completed or are doing an apprenticeship. Remarkably, productivity in the sector is 29% above the national average.

Hydrogen has been identified as one key area where new skilled workers will be needed in the future.


As the sector transforms, it will need to up-skill and repurpose the existing workforce. Making sure we offer compelling and appealing career prospects for new apprentices and engineers across a newly defined ‘energy sector’ is vital in ensuring the sector can continue to attract the best possible talent.

Hydrogen has been identified as one critical area where new highly-skilled workers will be needed in the future as while refineries already handle more hydrogen than any other industry, its future use in industry and beyond is expected to grow rapidly.

As new, decarbonising technologies become mainstream there will be new demand for expertise in new areas such as low carbon energy, data science, data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, material science, remote operations, and cyber security. See opportunities for digitisation in the sector here



Industrial collaboration will be needed to bring together the multi-sector expertise required to decarbonise industrial clusters. Greater collaboration between emerging industrial cluster participants may lead to a more fluid workforce, with highly transferable skills, working to a common standard and rotating between industrial sites owned by different companies operating in the energy sector. Ultimately, it will be through harnessing the ingenuity and expertise of the workforce that the downstream oil sector will be able to seize the opportunities that Net-Zero presents.

For more information on skills: Read Section 5 of our Transition, Transformation, and Innovation Report.

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