Environmental campaigners and trade unionists have called for MPs to back the creation of an Offshore Training Scheme, as a key solution to removing barriers for oil and gas workers transferring into renewables.

The idea is backed by offshore workers and MSPs from all parties expressed support for an Offshore Training Passport when it was debated in the Scottish Parliament in October 2021.

The Skills and Post-16 Education Bill is making its way through the UK Parliament, with the final vote to take place on Monday 21st February. Caroline Lucas MP has tabled three amendments which would require the UK Government to publish a strategy for the creation of an Offshore Training Scheme within a year.  Other parties are being urged to back these amendments.

A 2021 survey of 610 offshore workers by Friends of the Earth Scotland, Platform and Greenpeace UK found 97% of workers said they were concerned about training costs. On average, each worker paid £1800 every year to maintain the qualifications required to work in offshore oil and gas. For any worker looking to move into renewables, they are expected to duplicate much of their existing training, at even greater cost.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Just Transition Campaigner Ryan Morrison said:

“The skills and experience of offshore workers are vital to enable a rapid shift to renewable energy, but workers cannot be expected to fork out thousands of pounds from their own pocket to duplicate qualifications they already have.

“It is time for MPs to listen to these workers by creating a regulated training passport to ensure a just transition for offshore workers. They have a golden opportunity to do exactly that this week by supporting these amendments.”

94% of workers surveyed supported an Offshore Training Passport to standardise training in the offshore energy industry, removing duplication where possible and significantly reducing the burden of costs faced by often self-employed workers. The amendments put forward by Caroline Lucas would achieve the demands of workers in the industry.

RMT Regional Officer, Jake Molloy said:

“The urgency of this issue cannot be overstated. The Trade Unions have been banging this particular drum since the oil and gas downturn of 2014 and the industry and their standards bodies have collectively failed the workforce.

“We need an intervention now; we need the political will and support of MPs across the country to address the injustice of having to pay for work, which is the situation faced by thousands of UK workers! All of the talk about a “Just” transition will continue to be nothing more than ‘talk’ if MPs fail to support this initiative.”

Workers case study (Jack is a pseudonym)

Jack*, 39, has worked in the industry for 12 years. He works as a LOLER Focal Point for rigs, having worked his way up from being a trainee rigger.

Jack said: “The companies used to pay for your training costs. So you’d have to cover your first lot of training yourself but after that, once you were established with a company, they would pay for your training because they want you to work for them.

“Now it’s very different. You’ve got to cover all these costs yourself, and they need redoing every couple of years so you’re in this constant cycle, and often the courses do overlap. And some of these agencies are making you pay for your own Personal Protective Equipment that you need to work on an oil rig.

“I have thought about working in renewables, but that’d be thousands of pounds you’d have to pay to work in both industries. It’d just be too much, it costs an absolute fortune just to stay in one sector.

“I was paid off last year, so my certificates lapsed. I ended up having to pay £3,000 for training to only get four months of work.

“Shelling out all this money does cause stress, and it does have an impact on your family and your living costs. There’s lots of people worrying about how they’re going to pay the mortgage. I know people who’ve packed it in altogether because working offshore is just too expensive.”

Notes to editors

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity, because workers face being blacklisted by the industry for speaking out.

The survey findings showed that:
• On average workers reported spending £3,648 every two years, equivalent to £1,824 each year
• Respondents to the survey were asked to report where their biennial training expenditure sat within a series of ranges, for example “between £1,000 and £2,000”, or “between £10,000 and £12,000”. The average was calculated using a midpoint for each ranged answer.
The top 1% of spenders in this survey reported paying out “£14,000 or more” over the previous two years. For the purpose of calculating overall average expenditure, Greenpeace made the conservative estimate that the highest spenders paid out only £14,000 each, the minimum spend possible within their reported range.

The full survey findings are available at https://foe.scot/resource/tickets-training-the-hidden-costs-for-offshore-oil-gas-workers/ 

Scottish Parliament ‘Offshore Training Passport’ debate 28/10/21 

Scottish Parliament motion ‘The Need for an Offshore Training Passport’ https://www.parliament.scot/chamber-and-committees/votes-and-motions/votes-and-motions-search/S6M-00522 

Briefing for MPs on the Offshore Training Scheme amendments 

Friends of the Earth Scotland is:
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 73 national member groups, and 5,000 local activist groups.