Contractors boss endorses e-competence Energy

An innovative internet-based system designed to help verify worker competence in the offshore industry has attracted the attention of the UK’s Offshore Contractors’ Association.

OCA’s chief executive, Bill Murray, said at the launch of “e-competence Energy” that it could bring a number of key benefits to the sector, notably its supply chain.

“Systems like this that verify accredited qualifications are very important and highly desirable. The fact that e-competence Energy is based around the National Standards framework means that competence to do a job can be drilled down to specific skills,” said Murray.

“Our industry is skills restrained. Recruitment and retention are major challenges and, as has been well documented, we are facing an age issue as the offshore population gets older. This system allows you to check skills, pick relevant bits of experience from previous jobs and then match them to your needs.”

e-competence Energy is the creation of Tycom, an Aberdeen-based IT firm, in partnership with the SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority), and is the result of years of research and development.

The electronic portfolio, or e-portfolio, has been designed to speed up work-based assessments of oil&gas-related qualifications and competency schemes by reducing the need for paper-based evidence.

The database can be accessed by employees, their employers and SQA assessors and verifiers.

The innovative system also encourages continuous personal development and allows employees and contractors to keep an up-to-date record of all their documentation and certificates.

e-competence Energy has already been successfully trialled by an oil company and was previewed at Offshore Europe 2007.

Murray sees a number of advantages to applying the Tycom-developed system.

“As we will need to recruit from other industries, this is of huge benefit. Apprenticeships are also going to become very big business,” he said.

“Another key point is the fact it is web-based, which means contractors and employees don’t have to lug huge and heavy portfolios to the North Sea. And as long as you have access to the internet, it can give you access to your whole company database.

“The third area where I see benefits is in productivity, with scope for getting better use of existing resources. The ability to multi-skill and multi-task brings huge benefits in efficiency.

“However, the greatest benefit is in the internationalisation of business.

“The only market area worldwide not forecast to continue growing is the UK Continental Shelf, so the only option to keep growing our businesses is to go international.”

Murray added: “The SQA fundamentally understands competency, and its partnership with Tycom, which is a well established company that has been around the North Sea for a long time, means my faith in the system is well founded.”

David Adcock, business development project manager (oil&gas) at the SQA, said the system was both robust and comprehensive. Moreover, it had “huge potential”.

“We believe e-competence Energy can contribute to improvements in productivity on oil&gas installations by delivering a system that is focused on helping individuals to meet the requirements to perform their jobs effectively and safely,” said Adcock.

“While candidates will obviously still be able to use paper files, the SQA is giving the companies the option to have a paperless solution, with the vision that Scotland will be seen as demonstrating innovative and successful use of emerging technologies.”

Vocational qualifications come at different levels and the SQA oil&gas qualifications are based on the national occupational standards developed by OPITO as part of the Cogent Sector Skills Council footprint.

The areas covered include process engineering maintenance, offshore deck operations, processing operations hydrocarbons, offshore drilling operations and well services.

Candidates carry out work-based assessments and, instead of sitting exams, they are continually assessed so must provide evidence of their work.

Tycom says e-competence Energy can also be used to store video or audio clips to provide further evidence of a candidate’s achievements. Evidence can also be linked to other documents, which means papers do not have to be copied and stored in several places.