Energy firms look to tackle shortage of skilled workers

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A shortage of skilled workers is a serious problem for Shetland companies involved in the energy sector. The issue prompted a trip to the north of Scotland this week to learn how major operators are tackling the same problem.

Seven local businesses went on the tour organised by trade organisation Energy North to learn about the ambitious training schemes set up by Scottish and Southern Energy in Inverness and Global Energy at the Nigg Energy Park in the Cromarty Firth.

The local firms and organisations represented were Ocean Kinetics, Malakoff, Lerwick Engineering and Fabrication, Tulloch Developments, Peterson SBS, Viking Energy and HIE Shetland.

One of the problems highlighted by SSE’s head of transmission operations David McKay was the lack of awareness among school teachers about the abundance of well-paid careers in engineering available in the north of Scotland in sectors such as power generation and transmission.

During the visit to SSE’s Inverness HQ the Shetland group learnt about the company’s meticulous and high-tech approach to planning and reacting to major power cuts and other problems caused during storms.

At the giant Nigg yard the group met Bill Hives and Kenny Beaton from Global Energy and toured the new Nigg Skills Academy where people of all ages and skills abilities are being trained for employment, particularly in the “black trades” like welding. The academy aims to train 3,000 apprentices and other workers over three years and can produce “fit for work” employees in just 16 weeks.

The Nigg yard has large contracts to convert and refurbish giant structures like oil drilling platforms and production and storage ships.

Following the visit John Henderson from Ocean Kinetics said: “Finding skilled labour is one of the biggest challenges our company faces, which is why Energy North arranged the trade visit to meet with some of the north’s skills providers.

“The visit was really worthwhile as it highlighted some excellent examples for developing and delivering training schemes which will tackle the skills shortage currently threatening the growth of the region’s energy sector.”

Energy North chief executive Ian Couper said difficulty in attracting skilled workers was the biggest threat to growth and expansion in the oil and gas, renewables and decommissioning sectors. He said it was “vital” that businesses act now to ensure their workforce is ready to meet the demand and reap the benefits over the coming decades.

He added: “In the coming months Energy North will be launching its skills action plan.” 

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