The Downstream Energy Sector

Posted: 7th Sep 2020

Dan Wilkinson, former Army officer, tells us why military skills transfer easily to this highly lucrative sector...

“It’s all about relationships”, I was assured as I embarked on a role for a small company in North Yorkshire. Pennine Energy is owned by a couple of not yet ready to retire successful oil traders, with over 50 years’ experience of the industry between them, and a network commensurate with time served. Thus, I began as a Headhunter for a rapidly evolving energy sector; limited experience as a recruiter and almost zero knowledge of the industry.

Six months in, I am, of course, still learning, but am now able to hold a conversation that makes me seem like I know what I am talking about, even if there is still a strong element of confident bluffing – a skill I learnt in the Army. Since starting this role, I have been bothered by one thing: Why are there so few former Service personnel in this sector? Over the years, I have developed a very strong network, and yet I can count on one hand the number of my contacts from the Forces who make a living in this world.

"There seem to me to be tremendous synergies between the two industries. Calmness under pressure, the ability to communicate clearly and rapidly, decisiveness and emotional robustness, not to mention the organisational / logistical / teamwork / practical nature of much of the industry; all qualities I recognise in my Service connections."

Indeed, another sphere that has had success in the energy sector is that of professional sportsmen and women, who I believe have many similar attributes to Service folk.

Part of the reason may be down to the fact that, although energy is an enormous part of the economy, much of it is shrouded in mystique. During my resettlement, I looked at Financial Services and the Insurance sector, both paths well-trodden by ex Army officers. Those with an engineering bent might have looked at the Upstream (sourcing of the crude oil) and possibly Midstream (refineries etc) parts of the sector. But very few had any idea about how the oil based products changed hands, and got to where they needed to be – the right time at the right place, for the right price, otherwise known as the Downstream world of oil & gas.

The industry is changing rapidly as we see a shift towards renewable fuels and Pennine Energy is fully focused on being at the forefront of this change. With change, as we all know, comes opportunity. However, as the energy world works through this transition from oil & gas (which we will still need) to renewables such as wind, solar, hydro or biofuels, we will be seeking the best people to develop careers therein, and the skillset required still very much suits the Service leaver.

I firmly believe that the reason for the lack of Service personnel pursuing careers in Energy is due to the lack of knowledge about this profession.

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