Major energy services companies in the North Sea have today put in place a joint initiative aimed at blocking unskilled labour in the market.
Aker Solutions, Bilfinger, Ponticelli, Petrofac, Semco Maritime, Stork, Wood and Worley have all implemented the “Connected Competence” framework, representing more than 75% of craft and technician workers in the UK offshore sector.
It sets a standard of base technical competence for temporary oil and gas workers across the engineering and construction space, with support from the Unite, RMT and GMB unions as well as the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB).
Senior vice president of operations at Worley, and chair of the Connected Competence Committee, Shaun Poll said the scheme is needed to ensure safe, competent and efficient operations.
“Against the backdrop of a tightening UK labour market, labour demand in engineering construction is set to grow and we must address the oil and gas talent issue by recruiting those with appropriate skills and a fresh approach in sufficient numbers, or it will impair our potential to maximise recovery.
“The UKCS Workforce dynamics report suggests that if the industry can achieve its goals around Roadmap2035 and the broader energy diversification, the workforce requirements are estimated to be around 130,000 people in 2035.”
Government funding of £200,000 has been made available for competency tests as part of the initiative, and contractors have agreed to reimburse workers for time and expenses.
Alix Thom, skills manager at industry body Oil and Gas UK, said the scheme “can made a huge contribution to the transferability, and therefore employability” of the workforce amid the transition to renewables and decarbonisation technologies.
Meanwhile Step Change in Safety said it had “no doubt” the move would make the North Sea a safer place to work and the ECITB said the benefits of standardised working will be “numerous” on the way to net zero.
The eight firms have now imposed the Connected Competency standards, with six having previously signed a charter back in 2019. The scheme had been planned to be fully implemented in 2020 but was delayed due to Covid.
The initiative will give operators greater assurance and verification of the workforce’s competence through standardised process and tests.
It is benchmarked against National Occupational Standards (NOS) and approved by Industry Technical Authorities.
The contractor firms that have signed up said it will become increasingly important as the engineering construction industry continues to meet the demands of future project work, including the North Sea Transition Deal and Roadmap2035.
In a joint statement, Jake Molloy, regional organiser for the RMT, John Boland, regional officer for Unite the Union and Dominic Pritchard national organiser for GMB said: “The Trade Unions have been calling for a standardised, fair and transparent approach to competence and skills assessment for several years and we welcome Connected Competence.
“We sincerely hope this initiative is adopted and utilised by all contractors and industry bodies, because while the support of the major service companies is welcome, to be a real game changer we need to see Connected Competence adopted across the entire energy supply chain.
“This would truly enable workers to transition around the energy sector and help maintain and develop a UK skills base this is good news for both workers and the wider UK economy.”