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A doubling of planned funding to improve oil and gas training facilities and develop other energy sector skills courses has been announced by Scotland's First Minister.
Led by Skills Development Scotland and located at Robert Gordon University, Energy Skills Scotland (ESS) is being backed by an investment package worth £6.5 million – double the original amount unveiled last year, Alex Salmond has revealed during a visit today to the ASET industry training platform at Aberdeen College.
Through the development of a dedicated Energy Skills Scotland Gateway, ESS will work with industry to boost collaboration and encourage more talent into and across the energy sector – specifically to encourage and support more women, young people and mid-career professionals into the industry. Its first priorities will include:
The £6.5 million support package is double the initial £3.25 million allocated last September, following talks with employers in the industry to ensure ESS matches identified needs.
Commenting on the package, First Minister Alex Salmond said:
"Scotland’s energy industry - across all sectors - needs 95,000 more people between now and 2020. This is a huge opportunity for Scotland - by ensuring our workforce has the right skills and training, Energy Skills Scotland will support our energy industry and ensure people can access the jobs that are available. It’s a win-win situation.
"Scotland is a major oil and gas producer with reserves worth up to £1.5 trillion according to Scottish Government estimates – although academic estimates have put it much higher.
"Our unrivalled wind, wave and tidal resources, huge carbon storage capacity, electricity transmission expertise, combined with our engineering expertise, position us as a leading hub for the global development of offshore renewables and CCS technology.
"To keep pace with our potential, we must continue developing our talent and skills supply and we must ensure Scotland has the capacity to deliver the qualified workforce the industry needs.
Mr Salmond added: "As part of Energy Skills Scotland we will make a capital investment across the Oil and Gas Academy and the wider Energy Technology Partnership and Energy Skills Partnership networks.
"But we know there’s more to do. Energy Skills Scotland has a clear remit to work with employers and training providers across the country, to simplify and improve access to learning and skills provision and broaden the energy workforce, including the huge untapped potential among women.
"First priority for ESS is to help the oil and gas industry address its immediate skills challenges, particularly in the north-east. The Oil & Gas Academy for Scotland, rooted in the north east but with important provision at institutions across the country, will play a key role in meeting those challenges."
Frank Mitchell, Chair of the Energy Skills Action Group and CEO of ScottishPower Energy Networks (Grid), said maximising the economic benefits from the energy sector was critical and added:
"Key for this objective is Scotland develops the necessary skilled workforce to meet the demand of high-quality jobs that will be created.
"As chair of the Energy Skills Action Group, I will ensure that Energy Skills Scotland supports industry to deliver on this objective."
Niall Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, described the new launch as a "a real opportunity for the renewable energy industry" to attract even more skilled workers".
Highlighting the 11,000 jobs already created he added: "By working in collaboration with industry, ESS will be a valuable asset to the renewables sector, which can continue to build on impressive growth by attracting new talent from colleges and universities and by ‘up-skilling’ professionals looking to transition into the industry from other areas."
News of the investment package follows encouraging indicators that suggests Scotland's Oil and Gas sector is entering a second major boom. New forecasts based on oil price predictions from the OECD suggest that as much as £4 trillion may lie beneath Scotland's waters.
This week Malcolm Webb, Chief Executive of Oil and Gas UK said that in his opinion there was more reserves still to come from Scotland's waters and described the official figure of 24 billion barrels of oil as an "underestimate".
Speaking after today's announcement from Alex Salmond, Mr Webb welcomed the launch of ESS and said it would help focus on the skills challenge the sector faced as a result of the "high levels of activity".
"We look forward to continuing the very constructive engagement we have had with the Scottish Government on ESS and on further developing this initiative in support of our dynamic and important industry."