As climate change impacts intensify across the globe, there is an increasing focus on the urgent need to bring the extraction of oil and gas to an end. In Scotland, an estimated 20,000 people work directly in the extraction of fossil fuels offshore and many communities around the North East of Scotland rely on the industry today. 

A just transition is vital, winding down the extraction of fossil fuels while ensuring the people who work in the industry and surrounding communities who depend upon it, are not left behind.

Scotland is uniquely placed for this transition, with vast untapped potential for renewable energy and a workforce with the skills and experience to unleash it. Yet our Offshore report published last year found that these workers were struggling to move out of the industry despite a huge appetite to make the shift into renewable energy. 

Of 1,400 workers surveyed, 81% were open to moving out of oil & gas. However, through the survey and in several follow up conversations, workers told us that they face a convoluted and expensive training regime before they could even be considered for a job in other areas of the energy sector.

Offshore workers tell us about training issues 

To find out more, we created a second survey with Platform and Greenpeace UK to hear from offshore workers specifically on the issue of training including the costs, frequency and changes since the oil price downturn in 2015. In total, we heard from 610 workers, who shared their experiences revealing that 97% of them were concerned about the extensive costs of training for their work.

People working in the energy industry undertake comprehensive and regular training to learn and improve the skills needed for their jobs. Paying for this training is often the responsibility of the person, rather than any potential employer, and training costs can quickly add up. Our survey found that the average offshore worker is paying £1,800 a year to maintain their training qualifications. Since 2015, the number of offshore companies failing to contribute  to these employee costs has risen from 45% to 65%.

There is no one standard for work in the different areas of the energy sector and this can often mean duplication of training is the only option for those who would like to change industries. For those interested in moving out of fossil fuels, having the option to work in another sector means deciding to pay huge costs to duplicate their training to work in another sector, despite very significant overlaps in those qualifications.

Worse still, many workers are being asked to repeat a training course to gain a qualification which they already hold. 62% have been required to pay for a new qualification when their current training is up to date in order to take on work with a new company, while 44% have been forced to do the same by the company they currently work for just to agree to a new contract.

An ‘Offshore Passport’ to enable workers to move into renewable energy

As we wind down extraction of fossil fuels, our survey has shown that workers are open to moving into renewable energy. Yet right now, this is a more difficult option that would involve repeating your existing qualifications. To solve this, our survey asked whether workers would support an ‘Offshore Training Passport’, to create a new standardised training programme across the energy industry. This would reduce costs for workers and remove the duplication needed to move across from fossil fuels to wind or other renewables.

An overwhelming 94% of offshore workers said they supported the ‘Offshore Passport’ and alongside Platform and Greenpeace UK as well as the offshore trade unions RMT and Unite, we are now calling for the Scottish and UK Government to make these changes. It would recognise the hugely transferable skills of workers in the fossil fuel industry and ensure the choice to move into renewable energy isn’t a more expensive option.

A transition for people and planet

Our transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy must happen at a rapid pace over the next decade. The climate crisis, driven by the wealthiest countries and companies across the world, is hitting the most vulnerable through extreme weather events already. That shift to renewables will require the skills and experience of people who have worked in the energy sector for years already.

A just transition, ensuring that those workers and their local communities are able to move into and benefit from new, green industries is essential. The training issues shared by people in the offshore sector in our survey show that we are not yet ready to make that happen. The onus is now on the Scottish and UK Government to create a training regime which recognises the wide-ranging skills of offshore workers and enables them to bring them into a growing renewable industry.