5. Economic opportunities - skills
This chapter presents an analysis of responses to consultation questions 17 to 19. These cover skills gaps, how these could be addressed, and learning from best practice.
Skills issues and gaps
Q17: What are the key skills issues and gaps facing the sector over the coming years, in the short and medium term?
There were 20 explanatory comments in response to this question.
Specific skills gaps
Many responses to question 17 gave specific examples of roles or skills where gaps exist. Gaps in Operations and Maintenance were commonly cited; most simply noted skills gaps in this area without elaborating.
Beyond this, a small number mentioned skills associated with deep-water capability, ports, and harbour logistics. Other singular skills or supply chain gaps mentioned were:
- A lack of tradesmen to support the manufacturing and assembly of components.
- Shortages in seafarer, diver, and technical roles.
- Training in marine planning knowledge and skills beyond the sector.
- Engineering and ship handling.
- Capacity for tasks required in decommissioning projects.
- Blade recycling.
- Concrete manufacture.
- Steel work, specifically structural steelworkers, fabricators, and welders.
One detailed response highlighted challenges arising from using leasing rounds. They said it stretches the capacity of specialist advisors such as ornithologists, ecologists, landscape advisors and aerial surveyors who must consider multiple projects simultaneously. The respondent argued for a strategic approach to site survey to alleviate this problem.
Transition from oil and gas
Also prevalent were comments encouraging the transition of workers from existing industries - in particular, the oil and gas sector. Some specifically highlighted a need for the SG to continue to engage with OWIC's Investment in Talent and SOWEC's Skills Group, with one noting their work in examining the role of apprenticeships and training schemes. Other suggestions to support the transition included: collating skills information to identify gaps; support for passporting programmes; greater coordination between agencies such as Skills Development Scotland and training providers; and, the development of 'Shared Prosperity Funding' for investment in energy hubs and productivity.
One respondent provided a detailed response outlining challenges when transferring from other sectors, such as additional training costs and some offshore wind operators being reluctant to recognise existing qualifications. They argued against a bespoke offshore wind model which does not recognise skills from other energy sectors.
Attracting and retaining younger workers
Another theme was the need to attract and retain younger workers, in the context of an ageing existing workforce. Suggestions included the need to ensure a flow of technical expertise from further and higher education and working with education to maximise the attractiveness of the sector. These were seen to help ensure a pipeline of new, skilled workers who can learn from the existing workforce before they retire. One called for a comprehensive apprenticeship scheme, in cooperation with Skills Development Scotland, employers and trade unions.
Some highlighted the challenge of filling skills gaps when there is uncertainty around what skills will be required in the future. Some skills will be new, are not yet developed or will require greater understanding of future technology – for example, in foundation design. Respondents highlighted increasing automation, stressing the importance of embedding development, management, and maintenance skills in the workforce to ensure the UK sector remains internationally competitive.
Another theme was increased diversity in the sector. There were calls for greater inclusion of women and workers with Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. Two urged for additional work by Government to 'debias' education and argued the sector must ensure a diverse representation of role to attract diverse and representative staff.
Developing and funding local skills
There was also discussion around facilitating skills development in local communities. A few made the same request for greater flexibility in funding mechanisms; to enable long-term roles for local residents who could be employed in one location, trained, and gain experience elsewhere, and then re-deployed locally. Another called for the development of local talent, and another for projects to commit to investment in training programmes and facilities in the areas that will provide their workforce.
Q18: What more should government and the sector do to build on the progress made in recent years?
Twenty-one gave explanatory comments in response to this question.
One of the three most common themes in response to question 18 were calls for stakeholders to review the skills needed now and in the future. It was suggested this would ensure the supply chain can meet the requirements, or be upskilled accordingly. These respondents also noted a need for training and educational initiatives to match skill gaps.
Synergies with oil and gas
Another theme was for the SG to support and encourage synergies with the oil and gas sector, especially in re-training individuals transferring to offshore wind. Specifically:
- Encouraging the adoption of a cross-sector competence framework to allow for the transfer of skills, with the respondent citing the Connected Competence framework.
- Suggesting the Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organization (OPITO) could be broadened to include modules covering offshore wind.
- Establishing an industry owned training organisation aimed at offshore wind sector.
- Refocussing suppliers for the offshore wind sector.
Training those entering the sector
Support for those entering the offshore wind sector was the third common theme. Within this were: general comments around the level of training support currently available in Scotland; calls for funding for critical skills intervention; and, mention of a need to focus on mid-or late-career workers and to improve funding and provision for their re-training. Another suggested work experience placements and internships beyond school pupils and students would support those considering a job in the sector. One made a very specific point, suggesting that corporate social responsibilities should be distilled into cash which can be used to support people entering the sector.
A small number commented on engagement with the education sector. They asked for the energy sector to work with education to develop a fit for purpose curriculum; to connect the consultation with the Cumberford-Little report on the vision for Scotland's colleges; and, directed the SG to the renewables 'academy' vocational approach which can be accessed in the Aberdeen region.
A few called for fair working principles to be applied in practice, with one highlighting exploitative practice experienced by overseas workers. Another made a related point calling for due diligence of companies investing in the industry to ensure they have no history of mismanagement or actions which could be detrimental to jobs or communities.
Learning from international approaches
Q19: What can Scotland learn from the approach taken in other countries around the world in this area? Are there examples of best practice you can share?
There were 16 responses to this question. Given the smaller number of responses and respondents giving specific examples, only a few themes emerged.
Some described models used in other countries to develop offshore wind, including:
- France, Portugal, and Norway's experience of developing pre-commercial pilots.
- The value of taking a long-term view of contracts as is done in Norway.
- A suggestion that the German model should be considered.
- France's step-by-step approach from prototype to commercialisation.
In their response to another question, one suggested mirroring the South Korean approach where Government has driven industry to focus on floating wind and harness local expertise and supply chain.
Two highlighted the potential role of a Scottish National Investment Bank in financing production and one made a specific point that projects will need subsidy and capital expenditure support for pre-commercial deployment to overcome competitiveness issues.
A small number called for mechanisms to ensure projects set a minimum threshold for using local supply chains, guaranteeing jobs and contracts for local populations. Beyond this, singular examples of approaches or best practice included:
- Siemens' development of its mechatronics qualification.
- Developing centres of excellent for training, like the CATCH model in Hull.
- The Energy Skills Priorities in the East of England, and the Offshore Wind Skills Centre based at East Coast College in East Anglia.
- Singapore's integrated adult education system called Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) which offers existing, mid-career workers access to modular training that can be developed progressively into nationally recognised qualifications.
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