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Alan Savage: Get this alphabet soup working for the industry

Alan Savage, Orion Group
Alan Savage, Orion Group

There was yet another big announcement for the region at the start of the month with the launch of Oil & Gas UK’s new Efficiency Task Force (ETF).

The new group will be tasked with making sure that we make the most of the oil and gas reserves that are left in the North Sea.

That can only be a good thing for the industry and the north east economy.

But by my calculations, it’s at least the third summit/task force/commission to be set up in the past year to deal with the challenges facing the industry.

So far this year, we’ve had the Scottish Government’s Energy Jobs Taskforce, the PILOT group of the UK Government’s new Oil and Gas Authority and now, the ETF.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one who’s confused at the alphabet soup of bodies that are out there fighting for the industry.

So here I am hoping out loud (naively some might say) that whether you’re a politician – be it Amber Rudd, the new UK Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change, Nicola Sturgeon or Fergus Ewing – or an industry, trade union or business representative, that you’ll be working together, hand in glove, to deliver the best possible result for the region and the country as a whole.

No one involved in the oil and gas industry has been immune to the challenges that have come about with the collapse in oil prices to less than $50 a barrel and the knock on effects that it has had on the global economy.

Just this week, hoteliers in Aberdeen were voicing concerns at the drop in bookings that they’ve seen as a result of the downturn, with the hospitality industry one of the first to bear the brunt.

Admittedly, it’s not all doom and gloom. If you’re regularly filling your car at the petrol station then you’ll be happy with the news that the price of a litre is likely to plunge below £1.

And with ambitious plans in place for so-called “City Deals” for Inverness, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, we’re seeing our politicians – of each, every, even no political hue – coming together to put their money where the mouth is and commit to investing in the region.

It’s important that the task force sets out the practical steps it will take to support the industry as it recovers and the wider economy that it helps to support.  We’re all aware of the consequences that the downturn has had on the economy and as an industry, we want to be best placed to support its recovery.

As many as 65,000 jobs are estimated to have been lost as a result of the downturn and contraction of the industry, both directly and indirectly in the supply chain and other businesses and sectors relying on the trickle-down effect of the money generated.

So I implore the ETF, as it gets to work, to get round the table with the industry, work together and set out a clear pathway towards a more sustainable future, creating opportunities for all and unlocking the huge potential that exists to further develop our world renowned oil and gas industry.

Engineering the future

Kezia Dugdale appears to be settling into life well as the new leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

At last, Scotland might actually be seeing the beginnings of a real opposition to the SNP. Let’s be honest, there hasn’t really been any since they first won power eight years ago.

That can only be good thing for Scottish politics more generally – and it couldn’t be happening at a more exciting time for our country.

We’re a year on from the referendum.  I made my views on that perfectly clear and I’ve no intention of revisiting them.

But while its legacy lives on, it has been refreshing to see the day to day business of politics slowly getting back to normal.

So when Ms Dugdale spoke the other week of the need to encourage more young women to study STEM (science, engineering, technology and mathematics) subjects, I couldn’t do any more than agree with her wholeheartedly.

The trade body Engineering UK predicts that Scotland will need nearly 150,000 new engineers by 2022 and that filling these posts will benefit the economy to the tune of £1.7billion.

That has the potential to deliver huge opportunities for the country and its workforce, and Orion will be doing its part.

Women make up a significant proportion of the staff we place in positions at home and abroad. For that figure to become even higher, we need to see real action from the early years onwards to encourage the women – and men – of the future to see the benefits of a career in the industry.

I want to make sure that our industry continues to be equipped with the best and the brightest talent there is so that when our industry recovers, it returns in a much stronger position, ready to face the challenges of the future.

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