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UK oil industry launches 1.5 million technician recruitment drive

The UK oil and gas industry Monday moved to head off a major skilled labor shortage...

The UK oil and gas industry Monday moved to head off a major skilled labor shortage in the UK North Sea by launching a recruitment drive to increase the number of technicians being trained over the next decade.

Through the UK Offshore Operators Association, exploration and production companies and the government-industry body Pilot will contribute ?1.5 million over 3 years toward the Engineering & Construction Industries Training Board's apprenticeship programs.

UK Energy Minister Brian Wilson said the initiative was "both vital and urgent" at a time when the industry needed to recruit and train around 150 technicians/year to replace those leaving the sector through retirement or to take jobs elsewhere.

"Pilot is all about investing in the future success of our industry," said Wilson. "A skilled workforce is a key component to continued success, and this initiative will help us to achieve the challenging targets set for the industry."

The extra funding is expected to allow ECITB to provide 38 apprenticeship places on top of the 42 production technician traineeships already offered. The cost of technical apprenticeships over the next 3-4 years is expected to be ?7-8 million.

These 80 apprenticeships will be in addition to 72 technician training places that UK operators have committed to fund this year through schemes managed on behalf of the industry by OPITO Ltd., the sector's national training organization, or by individual companies.

The additional ECITB apprenticeships aim to make up the shortfall to deliver the 150 training places needed this year.

"This new funding will boost the industry's recruitment and training effort and expand the pool of trained, skilled labor," explains Michel Contie, managing director of TotalFinaElf Exploration UK PLC, which coordinated the issue for UK operators with Pilot. "The oil and gas industry has collectively recognized that the risk of a technician skills shortage was a strategic issue which might have affected its overall performance and reputation if not managed by some sort of centralized approach.

"ECITB involvement, as well as alignment of contractor and operator communities, was critical to a successful outcome in ensuring that the target of 150 trainees for this year was achieved," he added.

Mike Salter, chairman of Pilot's national training organizations, said the recruitment drive resulted from the UKOOA-funded Skills Foresight Report, launched in February 2000, and would be a first step in addressing the skills shortage in the UK North Sea.

Salter said that report provided a framework for an annual review of future training requirements and the funding of that training. "During the coming months we will be developing a longer term strategic approach in order to continue to address this problem in 2002 and beyond."