The North Sea oil and gas industry is poised to benefit from a new £4.5 million scheme to support the retention of essential skills during and after the Covid-19 crisis.
Launched by the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB), the Train to Retain initiative is aimed at the ongoing development of apprentices and graduates, whose participation in industry programmes has been suspended or otherwise impacted by Covid-19.
ECITB is an arm’s-length UK Government body that helps to drive productivity in the engineering construction industry by supporting employers to train and upskill their workforce to industry standards.
It works with a wide range of oil and gas firms in the north-east, including around 20 registered companies in the supply chain.
Many of these businesses are facing considerable uncertainty about what the full impact of the coronavirus-driven downturn may be.
The launch of Train to Retain comes as the sector struggles with the loss of about 4,500 jobs in the UK North Sea in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Industry body Oil and Gas UK warned recently another 30,000 direct and indirect jobs could be cut over the next 12 to 18 months, with the North Sea supply chain likely to be affected most.
ECITB said that by funding development activities for those in the early stages of their career, it could help the sector retain and develop the talent required to meet its medium and long-term skills needs.
Chief executive Chris Claydon added: “ECITB has developed a package of crisis response measures with an eye on the future, helping industry with both the short term problems as it recovers from the immediate economic impact and the longer-term challenges, particularly energy transition.
“Through Train to Retain, we will help employers to provide training and development activities for apprentices and graduates, whose first steps on the career ladder have been impacted by the pandemic.
“As relatively inexperienced workers, apprentices and graduates are among the most vulnerable during times of economic instability, however, we cannot forget they are the future of our industry.
“It is crucial their skills are retained and developed to ensure we can achieve the transition to a net-zero carbon economy. ”
As well as the Train to Retain scheme to help employers keep hold of apprentices and graduates, ECITB plans to support the industry in several other ways.
These include a new scholarship to support trainees embarking on engineering construction careers and increased investment in digital training and assessment tools.
Meanwhile, aquaculture businesses, affected by the collapse of international markets due to Covid-19, can apply for help with the cost of putting stock into cold storage through a £1.25m fund launched by the Scottish Government.
The scheme, which is supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, will help pay for the transportation, processing and cold storage of salmon, trout and shellfish until the end of 2020.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “This has been a challenging time for the aquaculture sector, with businesses unable to bring products to market but continuing to face high operational costs.
“This new funding, which will provide financial support for cold storing salmon, trout and shellfish, will mean businesses will be able to cover some of the additional costs they have faced trying to preserve stock during the global Covid-19 pandemic.
“Farmed salmon is Scotland’s most important food product and valuable food export and we want to support the sector through these challenging times.”