Hopes have been raised for a new fund to aid workers in the oil and gas sector to transition to new employment after questions from Gillian Martin, SNP MSP for Aberdeenshire East.
In Parliament on Thursday Ms Martin asked Fiona Hyslop MSP – Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture – to consider the reconstitution of the Transition Training Fund. The £12 Fund was set up in 2016 and helped over 4000 workers affected by the oil crash to retrain for new jobs.
The North East economy faces the triple threat of the impacts of manipulation of the oil price due to geo-political manoeuvring, the covid-19 pandemic and the Conservative UK Government lurching toward a hard no-deal Brexit.
A recent Study from KPMG predicted the North East would be among the areas of the country worst hit economically by coivd-19. While Scottish Government analysis in 2019 showed Aberdeenshire would be among the areas worst impacted by Brexit.
To help bolster the North East economy against these threats the Aberdeenshire East MSP, Gillian Martin, is seeking the reinstitution of the Transition Training Fund. Ms Martin wrote to Ms Hyslop earlier in the month, and has followed that by asking questions in Holyrood this week.
In Holyrood’s Covid-19 Committee on Wednesday, Nick Sharpe of Scottish Renewables said they had called on the Scottish Government to use its skills powers to set up a renewables transition training fund.
Ms Martin noted:
The idea is a good one but, in the past, one issue with transferring highly-skilled people from oil and gas into renewables was a recognition of their skills and certificates as oil and gas workers. Is that still an issue? It has clearly been a barrier to people from the north-east who have got in contact with me during the past three or four years.
Mr Sharpe told the Covid-19 Committee:
Yes, we are aware that there are differences in requirements. We would like the Government to address that as part of the renewables transition training fund. We already work with organisations such as the energy skills partnership and the energy technology partnership. The Oil & Gas Technology Centre is also closely involved in the transition, and it also has a role to play in shaping the regulations for people who move from oil and gas into renewables.”
We are keen for the Government to work with industry and ask us what our members need so that the people who are transitioning across have jobs to go to. We believe that the destination jobs for those people should be led by industry. Industry knows what skills are required and which roles need to be filled.
Responding to Ms Martin in Parliament, the Cabinet Secretary said
It is very important that our recovery is green; that will require skills and, as part of that just transition, support for those who are reskilling into the area. I reassure the member that only yesterday, along with the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, Richard Lochhead, and the Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, Jamie Hepburn, we met the chairs and chief executives of Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council to discuss the support and training that will be required for what will be a substantial labour market response. Clearly, regional support for regional jobs must be identified as a key priority, and for the north-east that is definitely in the area that Gillian Martin describes.
Gillian Martin, SNP MSP for Aberdeenshire East added
The crash of 2016 was an enormous blow to thousands of workers in oil and gas. The Scottish Government’s Transition Training Fund was hugely successful in helping thousands of workers retrain and pursue new career paths.”
Unfortunately, the North East faces the triple threat of a low oil price, the covid-19 pandemic and the threat of a hard Tory no-deal Brexit.
The £62m Energy Transition Fund announced last week by the First Minister is a massive boost for the region. That’s why I’m lobbying to ensure we have a scheme like the Transition Training Fund to help workers retrain to pursue sustainable careers that fund will help enable.
We have a highly capable workforce in the North East, capable adapting their skillsets to new avenues. Recreating the TTF would give people a crucial helping hand.