Opito – the Oil and Gas Academy has announced a major restructuring under which it will continue its skills agenda in the UK but also deliver standards to improve workforce safety and competency worldwide.
David Doig is spearheading this international drive and has taken up the new role of group chief executive of Opito Strategic, the holding company for Opito, the Offshore Training Foundation and new division Opito International.
Mr Doig said: “In the past five years we have succeeded in introducing Opito standards to improve safety and competence of the indigenous and transient workforces in 29 countries. Every year, more than 122,000 people around the world are trained to those standards, developed in the North Sea.
“Under this new structure, we now have the resources and the infrastructure to significantly increase this, with the ultimate goal of all offshore workers anywhere in the world being trained to common industry standards.
“Our aim is to see 500,000 people trained to Opito standards annually within seven years. We do not train directly ourselves but set standards and audit their delivery by licensed training providers.
“At present we have just 13 out of 53 Opito staff overseas, and 40 at Portlethen, near Aberdeen, but I would expect to have 50 staff overseas within five years.”
Opito International will initially have three business units focused on Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, and the Americas.
It already has offices in Kuala Lumpur, Abu Dhabi and Dubai and an office for the Americas is planned, probably in Houston.
The international operation will work with governments, national oil companies, multinationals and contracting companies to meet their skills needs.
Mr Doig, 50, said: “Opito International will provide independent advice and guidance on the effective management of workforce skills development in key areas of emergency response, occupational standards and qualifications and quality assurance of training delivery.
“Many of these markets are not as mature as the UK and therefore the skills offering has to be different.
“We have separated our business to reflect this and provide a distinct offering for each region.
“As UK innovations are exported and emerging markets evolve, Opito wants to be at the forefront in serving these markets and recognised for its proven expertise in improving workforce safety and competency.
“The UK industry currently invests around £12million per annum in Opito and we are, year-on-year, delivering a tangible return on that investment.
“By going global, we will ensure that this investment continues to grow and is not just an investment in the UK but in the global workforce.”
The organisation that is now Opito has been around for 30 years in different guises but it has grown significantly since the industry and unions reshaped it in late 2004-early 2005. Mr Doig became chief executive in 2005, and since then has steered it through significant change.
He said: “Gone are the days when Opito was just perceived as the training standards police. In 2006, the industry tasked us with identifying and implementing real and rapid solutions to short and long-term skills needs.
“The concept of the Oil and Gas Academy arose through our work in responding to skill shortages.”
In 2007 Opito – the Oil and Gas Academy came into being with the aim of delivering initiatives which ensure a competent and safe workforce supply for the UK industry.
Wholly owned by employers and trade unions, it is an independent body that works closely with industry to identify specific skill needs and then meet those needs through the development of initiatives with schools, universities, colleges, training providers and government bodies.
The academy manages the UK’s most successful Modern Apprenticeship scheme and has recently managed the introduction of the biggest change to UK offshore training since the introduction of basic survival training in the 1990s. The new Minimum Industry Safety Training (Mist) will be applied to every existing and new offshore worker by January 1, 2011.
Mr Doig added: “The academy will continue to engage meaningfully with industry to develop and deliver initiatives that meet the challenges of emerging skills agendas in the changing energy industry in the UK.
“A new chief executive for the academy will be announced shortly.
“With a global network of training providers and partnerships with governments in 29 countries, we have already made significant progress in establishing competence standards frameworks.
“These have resulted in thousands of people being trained to the globally recognised Opito standards in basic offshore training, specialist emergency-response duties and technical occupations for the first time.
“We use the very robust audit processes and competency-based qualification framework that has been so successful in the North Sea.
“Employers agree that safety standards around the world have improved as a result of what Opito does.
“What is amazing is that no one is legally required to meet these standards.
“They choose to adopt Opito standards because they are recognised by employers globally as the best for the oil and gas industry.”
Mr Doig’s eventual aim is for Opito International to introduce and promote products and services developed by the academy for the UK into the international marketplace.
He said: “The turbulent economic climate which has impacted on oil and gas activity around the world has, to a certain extent, masked the skills issues.
“But they still remain and, as activity levels pick up, the same skills gaps will come back to bite us.
“While you can rest assured that the industry will use every method at its disposal to meet the increase in demand for equipment and plant, we do not always see the same use of pan-industry solutions developed to meet the skill shortages.
“The solutions developed by the academy seek to provide mechanisms to bring new people and skills to the industry rather than just re-circulating the finite pool of resources which is not sustainable.
“We can share these with other countries so that we not only have common global training standards but also common solutions for the global offshore workforce. Our overall aim is to ensure that an investment by the industry in Opito is an investment in the global workforce.”