The number of former oil and gas workers receiving financial support through the SNP’s £12million retraining fund has shot up fivefold in less than three months.
Skills Development Scotland (SDS) said more than 450 people had successfully applied to the Transition Training Fund (TTF) for backing and that 650 applications were still being processed.
Last week, about 20 ex-oil workers started retraining for careers in teaching in Aberdeen city and shire with support provided by the TTF.
A spokesman for SDS, which distributes the funding on behalf of the Scottish Government, said “greater awareness” of the scheme following the launch of a dedicated website in May and increased marketing efforts had led to the increase.
The TTF was first announced in February as part of the government’s response to the tens of thousands of job losses that have afflicted the oil and gas sector since 2014, when crude prices collapsed.
At the start of June, the Press and Journal revealed that only 91 people had been allocated money from the TTF piggy bank, prompting criticism from SNP opponents who said the initiative was nothing more than an attempt to grab headlines.
Tommy Campbell, a regional officer for the Unite union, yesterday welcomed the news that more than 450 people were receiving funds, but suggested bad publicity had provided the impetus for the increase in awards.
Mr Campbell said: “Any support from the fund that ensures an oil and gas worker secures alternative employment is always welcome.
“The very large increase in numbers appears to show that because there was an outcry about the small numbers then a lot more attention was paid by those administrating the fund to ensure there was a quick response to these extra applications.”
Aberdeen South MP Callum McCaig, who is the SNP’s energy and climate change spokesman, said the update should encourage more people to get in touch with SDS to see what opportunities are available.
Mr McCaig said: “This news shows that the SNP led Scottish Government are once again leading the way to put long-term, practical support in place for people who have lost their jobs because of the oil and gas downturn.
“These figures are significant and show the system in place is working; the TTF is directly financing energy related jobs and teacher training to ensure we continue to utilise the skills of people in this country.”
North-east conservative MSP Ross Thomson said he was pleased TTF cash was finding its way to more people, but that 450 was still a “drop in the ocean” when stacked up against the severity of the region’s plight.
The SDS spokesman said: “The aim of the TTF is to help Scotland retain the deep well of skills developed through the oil and gas industry, giving individuals the chance to undertake training so they can use their talents in other sectors.
“In addition to the hundreds of people who have received support so far, a number of training providers around the country are offering courses to help people move into growth areas of the economy where skills are in demand.”