Jennifer Batchelor’s Q&A with Hart Energy’s E&P newsletter

Developing a sustainable workforce  

The energy industry has been through a significant period of transformation in recent years. Accelerated by the energy transition and challenges of Covid-19, the training sector has had to adapt, ensuring that the future workforce is upskilled and capable to support the growing needs of the industry.

We spoke with Jennifer Batchelor, European Head of Training at EnerMech, a specialist provider of integrated mechanical, electrical, instrumentation and integrity services, to discuss the evolving market.

What have been the key developments in the training market in the last five years?

 In the last few years, there has been significant changes to how the energy industry is approaching people development. As safety standards continue to increase, organisations have moved towards more competency-based courses so that they can clearly demonstrate to stakeholders that their workforce is truly competent in the services that they are delivering. This has also resulted in more focus on courses mandated by regulations or formal accreditations which means training providers are having to work harder to demonstrate a high-quality service which meets customer demands.

Traditionally, training would often take place in a classroom setting with large groups all learning at the same time. While there is still a place for this style of learning, there has been a real transition to more hands-on training where there is more emphasis placed on ‘doing’ as opposed to learning through listening.

There has also been a noticeable shift towards multi-skilling personnel, which is linked to companies trying to gain greater efficiencies in their operations. By upskilling the workforce to allow them to do several roles, this results in less resources and logistics and therefore, a lower project carbon footprint.

How has technology evolved to support current training requirements?

While the use of technology was already a growing trend, the Covid-19 pandemic really accelerated this movement as the world adapted to remote working, and training, to comply with regional restrictions. One of the key benefits technology offers is the ability to personalise a programme to an individuals’ specific needs. For instance, in relation to crane operators, if it’s identified that the trainee requires more practice in operating a specific crane model or lifting specific loads, we can utilise advanced simulators to conduct these tasks repeatedly to build up confidence and skills before the operator is deployed offshore.

At EnerMech, we recently invested half-a-million pounds in advanced crane simulator training systems at our bases in Luanda, Angola, Doha, Qatar and Great Yarmouth, UK. The system is delivered through powerful PCs and high-resolution screens and exposes trainees to a range of operating conditions including dangerous or high-risk circumstances in a controlled environment, delivering significant safety benefits. This allows them to gain experience in challenging situations such as equipment malfunctions and adverse weather conditions. As this technology continues to progress, I think we’ll also see the use of Virtual Reality (VR) more commonly adopted to provide an even greater immersive experience.

How can training companies adapt to the evolving energy industry demands?

 It’s important to always listen and recognise the changing needs of the sector, particularly as it continues its journey to net zero. The ability to offer more bespoke programmes for people development has become increasingly important, as an ‘off the shelf’ approach becomes less attractive to many companies. At EnerMech, we’ve been working with a number of major businesses on a consultancy basis to evaluate and identify gaps in their current programmes to ensure that they are addressing the needs of their workforce and customers.

It’s also essential that training providers in the energy sector adapt to support the growing requirement for skills in the renewables market. By applying the extensive experience and knowledge from oil and gas, many workers are ideally placed to support the growing number of projects in the wind, solar, geothermal and hydrogen markets with the correct training which opens a world of new opportunities for the future workforce.