Those in attendance at the Opito-run ‘Girls in OGTAP’ event were treated to the unblemished truth from current apprentices and offshore workers.
Designed to attract female apprentices into the oil and gas sector, these nights have become an integral part of letting young women know what’s instore offshore in terms of work and culture.
“You won’t hear sugar-coated stories from me,” said Sophie Ewen, a second-year process operations Oil and Gas Technical Apprentice Programme (OGTAP) apprentice.
Speaking to 20 young women over two nights at North East Scotland College in Aberdeen, Sophie is candid about her initial concerns about working in a male-dominated industry.
She said: “I was nervous about how I was going to be treated. It’s mostly guys in my course and often I was the only girl, but I wasn’t treated any differently.”
OGTAP is one of the biggest industry-led apprenticeship initiatives of its kind in the UK and has brought around 1,500 young people into the oil and gas industry since its inception in 1999.
OGTAP’s raison d’etre is to encourage young women with an interest in science, technology, engineering or maths into offshore work.
Over the years the programme has built up a list of impressive backers, boasting the support of 17 oil and gas operators and contractors such as BP, Chevron, Maersk Oil and Apache.
In its 20-year history OGTAP has given young people a clear line of sight into the oil and gas sector and is only one of two programmes formally accredited in Scotland to do so.
Following in the steps of her father and grandfather, Rhiannan Flaws is the third generation of her family set to work within the offshore sector.
As a young woman new to the industry she’s willing to be an example to other women. She sees events like this as a great chance to promote the sector.
She said: “I want to show other women that we need to break the stereotypes. I think it’s really important that we are able to make decisions about our own future based on what we want to do as there’s been that idea that we can’t do certain things for so long.”
Robyn Burn, a 17-year old whose family also works offshore, has travelled all the way from South Shields, near Newcastle, to attend the event.
With a real desire to get into the industry, Robyn wasn’t going to let the small matter of 250 miles get in her way.
She said: “I thought it would be more beneficial to come up here as there’s nothing like this in Newcastle. It’s a really good opportunity and not a thing that a lot of girls do.
It’s got a uniqueness about it, and I like things that are unique.”
With offshore oil and gas so omnipresent in the north-east, it’s essential that more women get into the industry, and nights like these go a long way to making sure that everyone knows what to expect.
Those in attendance get to hear from women who are doing it and living it every day, from college apprentices to qualified offshore workers.
Pupil Kirsty Forbes is here to see if her interest in physics could be transferable to offshore work.
“I’ve got an interest in physics and coming from Aberdeen [the offshore sector] is such a big part of life so I thought I’d come along and have a look.”
Kirsty’s mother Margaret Gibson also really wants her daughter to see the options that are out there, especially if your child has an interest in the STEM subjects.
She said: “I want Kirsty to see things that she might be interested in. I find the whole offshore thing interesting myself. I think it’s really important that we let young women see that they can get into this work. I believe more women should be involved in the industry.”