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Look Elsewhere to Plug Gap

Steve HamSteve Ham is General Manager of The Underwater Centre in Fort William and an Energy North Board Member.

‘Energy North’s recent Skills Survey estimates that the north of Scotland’s energy sector needs to find 900 skilled people within the next five years. When you see the numbers needed and the fact we need them now, the well-documented skills shortage becomes a terrifying reality.

‘To address this issue we must turn talk into reality. And now.

‘Much attention is focused on young people with organisations and Government working to persuade teenagers to study STEM subjects and school leavers to choose further education or apprenticeships that are rooted in engineering. But while this is a vote winner for politicians by addressing the threat posed by NEETS (government acronym for young people not in employment, education or training), young, newly qualified engineers are not necessarily what the industry needs.

‘While it is important to encourage youngsters to consider the energy industry, where they are almost guaranteed a rewarding career, Energy North would like government to incentivise people in other, less buoyant sectors, to retrain.

‘Those with experience in other industries bring new skills and new ways of working to this sector. They also have a strong-work ethic and experience of operating as part of a team. These qualities take time and maturity to develop.

‘At The Underwater Centre, we often train ex-Military personnel to be divers or Remotely Operated Vehicle Pilots for the energy industry and we’ve seen many from the construction industry retrain as divers and go onto build a great new career. Elsewhere many fishermen are retraining for the oil services industry.

‘The UK’s manufacturing sector is in the doldrums and we would like to see more people retrained and be encouraged to consider the energy industry as being an attractive option. For many, they don’t even have to relocate as offshore workers typically have their travel to the job paid for by their company. For others, relocating to the one of the many oil or renewables hubs across the north of Scotland could be an attractive option. Military cutbacks have left thousands of skilled men and women without work – this year we have already welcomed a number of aeronautics engineers from the RAF who have gone onto join the energy sector.

‘So, while it is important to encourage youngsters to become the future pioneers of the energy industry, when the need for innovative technologies will be even greater than it is now, there are many skilled people currently out of work who could plug the 900-man gap within the next few years. And these people can retrain with relative ease.

‘All we need is the Government to jump on this bandwagon with some funding to establish retraining programmes and the weight of the media to let people know the range of opportunities available to them in the north of Scotland.’


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