WITH the current record high oil prices and the continuing boom in the offshore industry, staffing issues are seen as one of the most challenging problems facing the industry. A number of recent reports highlight the shortage of qualified and experienced staff required in many areas of engineering and there continue to be high staff turnover rates in many areas.
Fugro, in recognising that such problems would not solve themselves and that the cavalry would not arrive quickly enough, if at all, embarked on a number of initiatives to address staff and skills shortages.
The most significant of these is The Fugro Academy, which was established in late-2006.
It was set up as a group-wide initiative to create a foundation for recruitment and long-term career development in the Fugro group of companies. In pure training terms, this focuses on providing standard technical and non-technical training courses across the group of companies to meet the needs of the business not just on a day-to-day basis, but also into the future.
Courses range from technical introductory level courses up to senior management development programmes.
Fugro Offshore Survey Division chief surveyor Andrew McNeill said: “The range of courses is designed to support personnel throughout their entire career with Fugro.
“At the higher levels, some additional, non-tangible benefits are achieved in addition to purely skills, such as developing a peer network across different parts of the business and exchanging information about internal products, services and capabilities.”
The initiative has been led by the Offshore Survey Division of Fugro, which employs nearly 4,500 staff worldwide in a variety of technical and professional disciplines, such as hydrographic surveyors, electronic engineers, geophysicists, ROV pilots and supervisors.
Two of Fugro’s Aberdeen-based operating companies, Fugro-Rovtech Ltd and Fugro Survey Ltd, are part of this division, with other companies located around the world in all the major offshore business areas.
To meet the growing needs of its global business, the offshore division established an initial series of about 12 standard courses that would support the operating companies through their ongoing recruitment and staff induction phases.
These courses are delivered around the Fugro Offshore Survey Division by a dedicated team of technical trainers, mostly former senior field staff with many years of experience, who take the courses to the staff.
“By using a dedicated team like this, training can be given the priority it requires, and also can be delivered to a consistent standard around the group,” said Andrew.
“This latter point is significant for a large, geographically dispersed organisation like Fugro working for global clients who are, increasingly, expecting to see a consistent level of service around the world.
“The concept of a ‘virtual academy’ was created to make the delivery mechanism cost-effective, rather than set up a central training facility. It is much more economic to fly one trainer from Abu Dhabi to Aberdeen to deliver a course than to send six trainees from Aberdeen to Abu Dhabi (although, arguably, not as much fun for the trainees).”
All courses are considered “open” for Fugro operating companies, so even though a company may have only one person available for a course on a given date, they can still get the training required wherever the course happens to be running. In busy operational times, flexibility like this is especially important as staff availability and training schedules do not always match up.
Due to the nature of some training, it was not practical to use this model for all courses. Most notable is the dependence on plant and machinery for ROV personnel training. Although the trainer can travel, getting the right level of equipment locally is often impossible to achieve and moving some of the necessary equipment can present major logistics problems.
For this reason, it was decided to work with a suitable training venue, so Fugro teamed up with the Underwater Centre at Fort William to provide training to its new trainee ROV pilots.
Andrew said: “Although the Underwater Centre already had training courses in place, Fugro needed to have some customisation to our working practices and systems, so course syllabi and material needed be to reviewed and revised to meet these requirements.
“Fugro also provided additional resources to the course, the largest and most recent being a Scorpio work-class ROV that was decommissioned from fieldwork to provide an additional training vehicle to the course in addition to the smaller vehicles already in place.”
Since creating the Fugro Academy in late-2006, the number of “classroom” courses now available to ROV and survey personnel in the group is in excess of 30, with several currently being planned or developed as the needs of the staff and the business change.
During 2007, more than 200 courses were delivered by The Fugro Academy to the Offshore Survey Division, to nearly 1,600 individuals. This included 11 of the three-week ROV Pilot Induction courses run at Fort William – a total of 85 new personnel for Fugro’s expanding ROV business line.
The “virtual” concept of The Fugro Academy goes beyond simply the location of the physical training courses. The Fugro Academy also provides an online learning facility that allows staff to access e-learning courses as and when required.
This approach has obvious benefits for a workforce that is not based in a traditional office environment, who travel to a variety of places for work and who spend irregular periods away from home. All of the above factors make provision of learning and tuition via scheduled training courses difficult to achieve.
The system currently makes available a series of “off-the-shelf” training courses in topics such as desktop application software, soft skills, health and safety.
In addition, a series of Fugro-specific courses are under development around the group that deal with technical and business matters specifically addressing Fugro business processes and systems.
With the infrastructure now in place, the build-out phase has started where operating companies are familiarising themselves with the system and determining what types of courses are needed for staff, whether in existence on the system or that need to be added.