An Aberdeen oil boss has said he is “excited” after making the decision to trade up his 20-year energy career for his passion for teaching.
Mark Graham, from Kingswells, decided on the move after being hit by two redundancies in less than three years.
The first came at the end of 2017, while general manager of Cetco Energy Services, followed by another redundancy situation at ROV specialist ROVOP in May.
Instead of pursuing new job offers in oil and gas, the industry veteran has decided to embark on a new venture, studying at Aberdeen University to become a secondary school chemistry teacher.
He said: “It was kind of this being made redundant twice in just over a two-year spell when you’re doing well, exceeding targets, things like that, but you still end up losing your job.
“There’s only so many times you can be hit like that and be collateral that way. So that certainly played a part on my enthusiasm for the subject.
“I am excited and at the same time it is a big change.
“You’ve got a 20-year-plus career you’ve built up, got to senior managerial roles and effectively I’m dropping back down to be a student teacher.”
After being informed in February his position would be cut, Mr Graham received offers from elsewhere prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, although some companies “battened down the hatches” when the virus hit.
During that interim, he has secured a Scottish Government bursary, providing some financial security while studying, and has been making science videos with his sons Zak and Luka to help parents with home schooling during lockdown.
He said: “The response from that and the feedback helped me, even people saying ‘oh have you ever considered teaching?’
“I had already started to think about it anyway but the fact that other people were being positive about it maybe rekindled that this is something I should give some proper thought to.
“Nobody has asked me or questioned my decision to make a career change, in fact a few have commented saying I won’t be the first to have to make some sort of transition. I think that’s a valid point.”
Having worked in the oil and gas and renewables sectors, including projects like the Aberdeen Bay windfarm, Mr Graham hopes to make lessons “more practical and interesting for pupils” once he finishes his postgraduate degree in 2021.
He also believes the joined-up approach of a wider “energy industry” will be crucial going forward as the North Sea becomes a smaller, and potentially less attractive, sector.
Mr Graham said: “We still need the industry but you can’t deny it is going to be smaller and certainly, with the energy transition, there needs to be more of that holistic approach and trying to include more renewables.
“It’s probably not as attractive as it was, but at the end of the day, even if we don’t use it as much for cars, we still need the feedstock from oil and gas for the various plastics and other bits – hundreds and thousands of products are ultimately derived from hydrocarbons.
“People anecdotally have maybe been thinking over the last year or two, is this an industry you’d encourage your own children into?
“Hard to say that there’ll definitely be a lot of jobs there, but there’s still energy security for Scotland and the UK. There does need to be an industry there I believe.”
Scottish schools are due to reopen in August – until then, homeschooling parents can find more of Mark, Zak and Luka’s science experiments on their Youtube channel.