UK oil&gas skills standards could soon become the norm around the world thanks to a bold initiative by North Sea training body OPITO – The Oil & Gas Academy.
Furthermore, it will more than double the size of the organisation’s staff, to approaching 100, within about three years and further reinforce Aberdeen’s status as a world-class energy capital and centre of excellence in offshore energy skills development. Under the programme already mapped out, the key objective is to train 500,000 offshore workers a year in a host of energy centres around the world within seven years.
Restructuring OPITO – The Oil & Gas Academy has led to the creation of a new entity – OPITO International. Its purpose is to improve workforce safety and competency globally and bring them up to fundamental North Sea standards. David Doig, currently chief executive of OPITO – The Oil & Gas Academy, will spearhead the international drive, becoming group chief executive of OPITO Strategic Limited, which is the holding company for OPITO – The Oil & Gas Academy, the Offshore Training Foundation and OPITO International. A managing director for the academy is currently being recruited.
“We will be recruiting 30-40 people internationally, which means our global presence will at least equal the UK in size and will likely be larger.”
He told Energy that the current international training head count is 12 or so specialists – much the same as OPITO had in entirety about five years ago.
“I’m up for it. It’s a fantastic opportunity,” said Doig.
“It’s too big a chance to miss. The figures stack up; the new board will support us. This is an exciting time, but one that is based on reality. In the last five years, we have succeeded in introducing OPITO standards to improve safety and competence of the indigenous and transient workforces in 26 countries.
“Currently, every year, 110,000 people around the world are trained to those standards developed in the North Sea. The target will be 500,000 (a year) in around seven years.
“Under the new structure, we will have the resources and the infrastructure to significantly increase this, with an ultimate goal of all offshore workers anywhere in the world trained to common industry standards. The new structure will establish Aberdeen and the North Sea as a global centre of excellence in skills, learning development and training in the oil&gas supply chain.”
OPITO International will initially have three business units focused on Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa, and the Americas. But Doig sees more centres being established further down the line.
There are currently teams in Kuala Lumpur servicing Asia-Pacific; Dubai covering Middle East and Africa, and in the US (several centres in the Houston area).
However, it is possible that Aberdeen will also service certain aspects of Africa, and the expectation is that a permanent presence will be established in West Africa.
The organisation is opening in Halifax next year and Doig has just negotiated a contract with Pemex of Mexico. He sees South America becoming a sector in its own right. OPITO International will work with governments, national oil companies, multinationals and contractors to meet their skills needs, to provide independent advice and guidance on effective management of workforce skills development, emergency response and 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 province,” said Doig, who will have to travel extensively in his new role.
“As UK innovations are exported and emerging markets evolve, OPITO wants to be at the forefront in serving these markets – recognised for its proven expertise in improving workforce safety and competency.
“The industry currently invests around £12million per annum in OPITO and we are, year on year, delivering a 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 workforce but in the global workforce where the industry operates.”
Malcolm Webb, Oil & Gas UK’s chief executive and a member of OPITO – The Oil & Gas Academy’s board, welcomed the move.
He said: “Over the last four decades, a wealth of expertise and technology has been developed alongside UK oil&gas production.
“There are now vast opportunities to continue creating value for the UK economy by exporting this know-how to oil&gas provinces around the world.
“The establishment of OPITO International highlights the ingenuity of the UK oil&gas industry as it works to share, from its base in the UK, its proven expertise in improving workforce safety and competency.”
The academy also 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.
Doig added: “The academy will continue to engage meaningfully with industry to deliver existing and develop new initiatives that meet the challenges of emerging skills agendas in the changing energy industry in the UK.”
OPITO International will introduce and promote products and services developed by the academy in the UK and used within the UKCS into the international marketplace in line with demand and as the markets evolve.
OPITO – The Oil & Gas Academy, launched in 2007, is seen as a role model for other government and industry-funded skills training bodies to learn from.
Wholly owned by employers and trade unions, it is an independent body committed to delivering initiatives and activities designed to ensure a competent and safe workforce supply for the offshore industry in the UK.