Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin has pressed the Scottish Government over challenges faced by offshore workers in finding new roles in renewables.
Ms Martin’s report, ‘A Just Transition? The Voices of Oil and Gas Workers’, shows offshore workers face a range of difficulties in moving into different roles, particularly within the renewables sector.
She has now written to the Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity Lorna Slater to press the issue of certification, and has asked what is being done to liaise between different organisations to align certification and training standards.
Almost 600 oil and gas workers were surveyed in summer 2021, with the findings compiled in Ms Martin’s report, which has since received backing from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
In her letter to the Skills Minister, Ms Martin said: “It is very apparent to me that there is a disconnect between the certification and training standards in both sectors despite considerable skills transferability, and my research with oil and gas workers has further confirmed this.”
She also pressed the minister for information on when the government last met with the GWO, and who from the organisation would be liaising with the Scottish government on the issue.
Commenting on the letter, Ms Martin MSP added: “Since the launch of my survey and report on its findings I have had a number of constructive conversations with stakeholders about the many challenges for workers who currently work in oil and gas but are interested in the opportunities available to them from the renewables sector.
“One of the barriers to helping support workers in a Just Transition clearly comes down to doubling up of certifications and cost – something I know OPITO is working hard to address.
“I would like to know what work has been done by the Scottish Government and GWO on this issue from the renewables sector. Time and time again this issue was raised by respondents and I am keen to find out how this can be addressed further.”
Responses in the report focus on three key areas of difficulty – recruitment, training and certification.
Regarding the former, workers overwhelmingly said there were not enough recruitment opportunities to switch sectors, with some claiming prospective employers were reluctant to hire those with oil and gas experience, either because they feared they would eventually return to offshore work, or because workers were perceived to be “pigeon holed” in their skill set.
One respondent, a male with thirty years of experience, said: “Once they know you have worked offshore they don’t employ you.”
Others complained of a lack of information on how they could make the transition.
Some suggested that an in-person service, with dedicated advisors, could be created to help oil and gas workers understand their skillset, identify which skills are transferrable and how, as well as identifying skills gaps and what training would be required.
Regarding the latter, the survey also found that when asked specifically what the barriers were to move from a job in oil and gas to one in renewables, training was the primary concern of respondents, ahead even of income.
Responses pointed to the cost burden of training/re-training and certification as another major hurdle, while many pressed for better alignment in standards between the offshore sectors.
One man aged between 35-44, with eight years’ experience in oil and gas as a rope access technician, said he regularly funds his own training but finds it “disgraceful that very similar qualifications and modules are not transferable from oil and gas to renewables,” and said qualifications could easily be aligned to fit both sectors.
He added: “The vast majority of people are keen to work and can’t understand why they can’t transition over simply.”
Another – a school leaver with 14 years’ experience in oil and gas – said he had not retrained because it was “too costly” to do so. He said courses needed to be made cheaper, with the validity of a course extended.
‘Disconnect between sectors’
The Scottish government is already working with skills training body OPITO, which has its own integrating people and skills strategy that includes looking at an ‘offshore passport’ for workers across both oil and gas and renewables.
And it has promised a £500m Just Transition Fund for the north-east, though publication of the strategy has been pushed back.
Last month OPITO, along with the Global Wind Organisation (GWO) and the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA), said they would align efforts to identify duplicate training and to create new guidance aimed at enabling workforce mobility.
However, unions and campaigners said they would be seeking assurances around the timeline for delivery of the review, particularly around the issue of training passports.