First Minister Alex Salmond today launched an industry-led energy skills academy, established with over £900,000 public funding, to deliver training for thousands of workers across key sectors including oil & gas and renewables.
Nigg Skills Academy (NSA) has been built at Nigg Energy Park, which was purchased by Global Energy Group (GEG) in October. Highlands & Island Enterprise (HIE) has already committed £1.8 million to the development of the 238-acre site on the Cromarty Firth, which the company estimates could see up to 2,000 people employed at Nigg within four years.
GEG has provided and substantially upgraded premises for the NSA, which will operate initially as a 12-month pilot, with funding from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and HIE totalling £915,000.
The Academy aims to start 290 Modern Apprenticeships (MAs) in its first year and to provide both MAs and general training for some 3,000 people by 2015 for a range of jobs including engineers, operators, riggers, technicians and for general and project management.
The First Minister said: “Nigg has one of the world’s largest dry docks and its workforce has been responsible for some of the biggest energy-related structures ever built, so it is well positioned to host the Skills Academy pilot. I’m delighted to meet some of the first recruits and to be able to congratulate Global Energy and the various agencies involved for establishing this innovative facility just five months after the purchase of the Nigg site.
“With some one trillion pounds of oil & gas reserves remaining and huge export opportunities for supply chain companies, Scotland’s offshore energy sector remains vibrant, while our burgeoning renewables sector is set to reindustrialise communities across Scotland. Clearly the energy industry needs continued access to world-class talent to meet Scotland’s global energy ambitions; Nigg Skills Academy is a perfect example of how the public and private sector can work together quickly and decisively to deliver just that.
“We identified Nigg as a strategic location in our National Renewable Infrastructure Plan and I’m pleased that the UK Treasury has agreed to our proposal that Nigg becomes eligible for enhanced capital allowances. The Scottish Government will continue to support the transformation and renaissance of Nigg as a vital hub for our world-leading energy industry.”
The NSA has had more than 800 applications since advertisements were placed last month – with all those applying guaranteed pre-training tests. The industry-led model has the potential to be delivered in various locations, with different industry partners across Scotland.
GEG Chairman Roy MacGregor said: “There is recognition within the wider energy industry of the need for additional skilled labour if we are to meet the demands of both oil & gas and the emerging renewables industry over this next three to five years. A lot of discussion has taken place around the skills agenda, and I am delighted, following our purchase of Nigg Energy Park, to have entered into early dialogue with the various public sector bodies. They were able to move quickly in their understanding of the critical skills issues facing the industry if it is to grow and look to attract inward investment into the area. I would like to thank HIE, SDS and SFC for their financial support for this innovative pilot project. We have our own needs over this next three years to service both oil & gas and renewable energy opportunities.”
John McClelland, Chair of both the SFC and SDS, added: “This is an excellent example of partnership working between the college sector and industry to respond to the energy sector’s current and future skills needs. It builds upon the work of SFC and SDS in this area including the Energy Skills Investment Plan and College Energy Partnerships. The benefits for industry and for individuals are clearly demonstrated and we look forward to our continuing involvement in skills development at Nigg.”
Lorne Crerar, Chairman of HIE commented: “The Highlands & Islands has a long and effective tradition of mobilising large workforces quickly for big energy projects through specific industry-led training initiatives. We need only look to the hydro schemes of the 1960s, and how the oil industry was able to very quickly turn farmers into fabricators and crofters into welders back in the 1970s. Provision of an industry-led Academy will provide a facility which can meet the skills challenges facing local employers. This is a facility for the entire sector, and its services will be open to all employers. It’ll be a key asset in attracting new investors into the area and will maximise opportunities for the future workforce.”
In addition to GEG and Scottish public sector funders, other partners in the project include North Highland College, JobCentrePlus, the Highland Council, the University of the Highlands and Islands, SQA, and industry training accreditation bodies Semta and EAL. North Highland College will provide equipment and other services to the NSA. JobCentre Plus has seconded a staff member to work at the NSA to help ensure employers’ labour needs are met and to maximise opportunities for jobseekers in the region. The Highland Council and the University will provide nominations to join GEG on NSA management board.
The Skills Investment Plan for the energy industry was launched a year ago, identifying as many as 95,000 potential job opportunities.
The Scottish Government has committed funding for 2,000 MAs specifically for energy and climate change industries up to 2014, as well as an additional £2 million investment to support a further 1,000-plus flexible energy/low carbon training places over next year. This builds on existing programmes including the Low Carbon Skills Fund that has supported more than 1,000 individuals since 2010.
Offshore WIND staff, March 23, 2012; Image: niggyard