(England’s) National Shale College scoops £5.6m UK Govt. cash and taps into a further £2.25m funding stream as Scottish sector stagnates

(UK) National College for Onshore Oil and Gas, Blackpool
England’s National College for Onshore Oil and Gas, Blackpool

UK Government Skills Minister Nick Boles has provided a huge capital boost of £5.6 million to the new (England-only) National College for Onshore Oil and Gas to exploit shale energy reserves south of the border.

The cash – which will be used to purchase a full suite of training equipment, enabling the college to offer world-class technical and professional training and education at its headquarters Lancashire and across its partners –  will also unlock industry equipment donations worth a further £2.25 million. 

NCOOG is jointly supported by government and industry and operates a ‘hub-and-spokes’ model with its headquarters in Blackpool. 

Its aim is to train the next generation of onshore oil and gas engineers and other specialists, meeting the onshore industry’s future skills needs and providing first class qualifications and career opportunities for young people. 

The Blackpool-based national college is supported by some of Scotland’s leading higher education bodies and leading industrial and manufacturing companies – even though the SNP-majority government in the last Scottish Parliament unilaterally imposed a ‘temporary’ ban on fracking for (onshore) shale oil and gas in Scotland.

As a result, Scotland is increasingly being left behind in terms of investment and potential new job-creating opportunities as national and international energy companies focus their exploration and recovery drilling in England – despite the UK industry being first created in Scotland in the 19th century. Indeed, the unemployment rate in Scotland is rocketing far above the UK level as the ‘lower for longer’ crude oil price slump impacts Aberdeen-based N. Sea oil and gas jobs.

Even if the now minority-led SNP Govt. in Holyrood lifts its ‘temporary’ moratorium on shale gas exploration – when its ‘evidence-led’ scientific review of public health issues relating to shale oil and gas is published in Spring-Summer 2017 – it will simply have served to handicap any domestic ‘Scotland-led’ shale energy industry.

This ‘ostrich-strategy’ is the complete opposite of what the Scottish (and UK) Govt. is trying to achieve with the much-vaunted Oil and Gas Technology Centre to be built in Aberdeen as part of their joint £375 million funding for the Grampian city-region deal – where the OGTC’s aim is to create a global research-and-development technology centre for oil and gas, rather than ‘simply’ supply-chain service jobs.

The NCOOG brings together the expertise of a number of colleges and universities, together with support from other specialist bodies.  The college and university partners are: 

  • Blackpool and Fylde College (headquarters)
  • University of Chester
  • Highbury College, Portsmouth
  • Strathclyde University
  • Redcar and Cleveland College

Other supporting bodies are:

  • Weir Group Plc
  • OPITO
  • Engineering Construction Industry Training Board
  • Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport

Whilst the Weir Group plc can – as a private sector company – choose to spend its money where it wishes in Scotland, the UK and internationally – it appears prima facie that Strathclyde University is spending Scottish Government/ taxpayers’ monies on supporting policies presently prohibited by the Scottish Government.

The (England-only) National College will focus on several areas:

  • Providing the specialist skills needed by the industry at Levels 3, 4 and 5, or higher and training teachers and regulators.
  • Carrying out research and development for improved equipment, materials and processes that will increase the efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of operations.
  • Working with schools to encourage children to consider careers in the industry, and to help them make the right subject choices early on.
Colette Cohen
Colette Cohen

Colette Cohen, Chairman of NCOOG and head of Centrica’s UK oil and gas production N. Sea business, said: This is excellent news.

“The vision for the National College for Onshore Oil and Gas is to develop a top quality skilled British workforce to help deliver a national resource in a safe and environmentally sensitive way.

“This funding will allow us to progress quickly with the establishment of the college and open new exciting training and career opportunities to local people.” 

Ken Cronin, Chief Executive, UKOOG –  the trade association for the onshore oil and gas industry and supply chain – added: The creation of the UK National College for Onshore Oil and Gas sets out the ambition of this industry right from the start to commit to training people in this country. I would like to thank all of the partners in this venture for the hard work in getting us this far.”

Bev Robinson, Principal and Chief Executive of Blackpool and Fylde College, said: “The investment in technical and professional training and education is welcomed. The National College will provide a clear route for careers in this emerging industry, supporting the growth of a range of employment opportunities within Lancashire and across the country.” 

Francis Egan, Chief Executive of onshore oil and gas exploration company, Cuadrilla, said: “We are delighted that the new National College for the onshore oil and gas industry is to be headquartered at Blackpool and The Fylde College. Several independent studies have shown that the development of a shale gas industry in the region will generate tens of thousands of jobs and this new National College will give England’s North West region a head start in developing the skills that are needed for a productive shale gas industry.”

Greg McKenna, Director of Non Operated Assets at Centrica Energy, added:: “We welcome the commitment to a National College for the onshore oil and gas sector, which marks an important step forward for the industry.

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