By DARA BUTTERFIELD
A refreshed Skills Investment Plan for Scotland’s energy sector – encouraging the industry to retain and invest in skills to ensure future prosperity – has been published the by Skills Development Scotland (SDS).
To mark the publication of the refreshed Skills Investment Plan, Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training Roseanna Cunningham visited energy sector supplier Hydrasun at its site in Aviemore to meet experienced staff and Modern Apprentices.
The report says that training more young people and women will help ensure the future prosperity of Scotland’s multi-billion pound energy sector. Themes identified in the plan include promoting careers to young people, more Modern Apprenticeships and improving gender equality.
Publication of the plan follows a cautious welcome for last week’s UK budget where significant changes to the North Sea tax regime were announced. Whilst acknowledging the long overdue ‘U-turn’ on the tax regime the Scottish Government called for more work focused on boosting investment and growth in the oil and gas sector.
Cunningham said: “Scotland’s energy sector supports thousands of jobs around the country and is vital to our future economic growth and developing our infrastructure. It is therefore crucial that we ensure that our oil, gas and renewable companies are getting the right people into the right jobs.
“Recent months have shown that even the most significant industry requires support to protect jobs and investment. While we welcome the overdue changes to the North Sea tax regime announced by the UK government last week, for some it is too late and jobs have already been lost. Improved skills are paramount to the next steps on oil and gas exploration with a number of new projects under consideration.
“We know that the sector will continue to provide high quality career opportunities for the next generation of young Scots. With the creation of Energy Skills Scotland, increased MAs and graduates in the sector and a variety of skills funds aimed at bringing more people into the sector we have come far.
“This new plan has been backed by industry, education and enterprise and pulls together a range of actions to ensure we can plan for a prosperous future. We need greater awareness of career opportunities at a younger age, more energy MAs as part of our move towards 30,000 each year from 2020 and an end to the outdated idea that engineering and science is just for boys.
“Skills Development Scotland will continue to work closely with employers and relevant bodies to ensure that the actions identified are taken forward collaboratively with industry and that Scotland’s energy sector has the right skills for its future growth and prosperity.”
The report outlines priorities for the sector, developed collaboratively with both industry and public sector partners, and includes the following actions:
- Exploring more flexible working practices to encourage more female trainees
- Improved promotion of science, technology and engineering careers in school
- Increased work experience and placement opportunities
- Better scope for professional development and promotion
- Increased promotion of Modern Apprenticeships (MA) within the sector.
Meanwhile, during a visit to the Nigg Skills Academy, Deputy First Minister John Swinney also met apprentices from companies across Scotland.
Despite the new measures, ‘a heavy price has already been paid’ by some of our oil and gas workforce, and the Deputy First Minister believes this is proof the UK Government must deliver wider reform after decades of irresponsible stewardship of Scotland’s £28.7 billion energy sector.
The visit coincided with the third meeting of the Energy Jobs Taskforce, which was set up to to retain the talent and skills in the sector as well as provide support to people facing redundancy in the fall-out of a 50% fall in N. Sea crude oil prices over the past year.
Swinney said: “The North Sea is a fantastic asset for Scotland and will continue to be for decades to come. There are up to 24 billion barrels of oil and gas equivalent remaining, and it is essential that there is a stable and proportionate fiscal regime which encourages the investment, innovation and exploration required.
“The Chancellor has presided over a regulatory framework and fiscal regime which is not fit for purpose and his U-turn is a clear admission that the UK Government’s stewardship of the sector has been failing.
“The apprentices I met here at Nigg will soon become part of our valued, skilled North Sea workforce which I believe will underpin the successful recovery of the sector.
“Our workforce are the very people that must be ultimately supported by the UK Government’s long overdue changes to the regulatory framework – which included a U-turn on a tax which the Chancellor himself introduced in 2011, that had an immediately damaging impact, destabilising existing projects and damaging confidence in the sector.”