The North Sea oil and gas industry is looking to a football-style loan transfer scheme to resolve skills shortages after it emerges from a long and brutal downturn.
Aberdeen Football Club (AFC) has already hosted a workshop aimed at identifying a suitable model for the offshore sector.
Though still at an early stage of development, the idea has been kicking around since it was mooted early last year in a workstream group established through the Scottish Government’s Energy Jobs Taskforce (EJT).
Once properly up and running, the revolutionary scheme would see groups of workers loaned out from one company to another in an unprecedented shared effort to keep labour costs down.
It would also mean fewer lay-offs if firms are going through a quiet spell.
Current employment conditions in the industry means it is likely to be a while before the initiative is working as intended, but it is seen as a potential solution to future overcapacity at some companies and manpower shortages at others.
EJT workstream group leader Kevin Higgins, vice-president, human resources, Petrofac, said “best endeavours” to put the loan scheme into practice had to date been thwarted by the longevity of the downturn.
But the idea had “a lot of support in principle” and been endorsed by all the various parties who sit on the taskforce, he said.
Union boss Jake Molloy, general-secretary of the offshore energy branch of the RMT, said: “This idea is sound and we will support it where we can.
“We should be looking at every area possible in order to retain skills … and sustain employment. This is something our organisation is trying to promote right down through the ranks.”
AFC football operations manager Steve Gunn said the Dons hosted the workshop as the result of an approach by Aberdeen City Council chief executive Angela Scott, who is part of the EJT.
“It was an interesting concept, looking at the loan system in football and how facets of it might suit other industries,” Mr Gunn said.
He added: “We have made efforts as an organisation to learn from other clubs and industries over the last few years, and so it was an opportunity to pass on some of our own knowledge and experiences.
“There are a number of synergies between the aims of the taskforce and the club, no less the development and retention of talent and skills, so it made a lot of sense for both parties to collaborate on this initiative.
“A strong energy sector is good for the city and the club, and it’s just one example of working in partnership which we hope can continue to develop in the future.”
The Oil and Gas Employee Loan Scheme is managed by Skills Development Scotland (SDS).
Industry skills and workforce development body Opito and the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), through their representation on the EJT, have also been at the heart of efforts to get the initiative off the ground.
SDS employment support manager Heather Milne said it was based on principles similar to those operated under the supervision of football governing body Fifa.
She added: “A real risk from the downturn in oil and gas is that of skills being lost permanently from the industry.
“The purpose of the employee loan scheme … is to retain that core expertise.
“Employers can nominate anyone identified as being at risk of redundancy – giving loaning companies the vehicle to retain essential skills, while not necessarily continuing to pay full employment costs.”
Receiving companies would have access to “a pool of highly skilled workers, with the talent and knowledge required to fill skills gaps for an agreed period of time”, she said.
OGA human resources and supply chain director Stuart Payne added: “A significant amount of work has gone into developing the scheme, including engagement with government amd employers in and outwith the oil and gas industry.
“By working in partnership and demonstrating collaboration ourselves, we hope it provides an alternative approach to redundancy which offers benefits to both employers and our skilled workforce.”