North Sea sector gathers to celebrate apprenticeship success


13th November 2014

TALENTED leaders and apprentices across the UK oil and gas industry are celebrating after their role in addressing the skills issue was recognised at a milestone event for the North Sea sector.

Three awards were presented during a prestigious lunch at Aberdeen’s Chester Hotel today (Thursday, November 13th) marking the 15th anniversary of the UK Upstream Oil & Gas Technician Training Scheme.

Operators and major contractors have invested more than £120million in the programme since it was established in 1999 with 13 trainees and four industry sponsors. Since then, the scheme has grown to see around 130 new apprentices taken on every year across 15 sponsoring companies, making it one of the biggest industry led MA programmes in the UK.

Managed by OPITO in partnership with the Engineering and Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) it is also recognised as one of the most successful with an annual achievement rate of 93% compared to the national average of 65%.

Michael Williamson, 23, beat off competition from students at three colleges to be named 2014 Apprentice of the Year at the lunch. The former mussel farmer, who previously completed an apprentice in mechanical engineering with Shetland Island Council Ferries, was joined at the ceremony by Sinead Watson, the first female on the programme and winner of the first apprentice of the year title in 1999.

Originally from Whalsay, Shetland, Michael is currently an instrument technician at Edinburgh College. He was selected after demonstrating an outstanding ability and attitude during the four year national apprenticeship scheme which has so far seen more than 1,500 young people enter the industry, creating a sustainable pipeline of technicians coming in at a grassroots level.

As part of OPITO’s National Oil & Gas Skills Week, two new awards were presented to recognise the organisations and individuals making a tangible difference to the sectors skills challenge.

Quick Hydraulics, headquartered in North Shields, were named Top Employer for Engagement in UK Education for their work to encourage the uptake of STEM subjects in schools, their partnership with Durham University’s School of Engineering and Computing Science and their work to inspire the next generation of management with a series of masterclasses.

The OPITO Top Military Transitioner Award, recognising ex-military personnel who have made the transition from the Forces to the oil and gas sector and delivered tangible benefits to their employer, went to Peter Hall, HSSEQ Manager with Paradigm Flow Services.

Peter served 27 years with the RAF working on fast jets and search and rescue helicopters as well as roles in engineering support, supervision and management as far afield as the Falklands, Far East, Canada and the US. He completed three tours supporting operations in Iraq and two in Afghanistan before joining Paradigm Flow Services in 2013 where he has had a great impact on the company’s HSE culture.

The lunch, which was hosted by BBC news broadcaster Jackie Bird, took place on the penultimate day of OPITO’s National Oil & Gas Skills Week. It included speakers Malcolm Webb, chief executive of Oil & Gas UK; and Sinead Watson, the first female modern apprentice who was on the first intake in 1999.

A UK-wide initiative, National Oil & Gas Skills Week has seen more than 75 companies take part in around 50 events in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh, North Shields, Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, London and beyond from November 11-14th.

John McDonald, managing director of OPITO UK, said: “Skills Week has demonstrated that there are some outstanding companies and individuals working in our sector who are delivering tangible benefits around the skills agenda at both a company-wide, local and national level.

“The high standard of entry we received for the inaugural awards was matched only by the passion and enthusiasm shown by this year’s apprentices for the industry they have chosen as a career.”

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