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Oil and gas workers won’t regret leaving the industry for a more secure challenge

Just over 18 months ago, in late February 2020, my role as a business development manager at a Westhill headquartered subsea robotics company was made redundant – out of the blue, and despite performing well personally.

It was a bitter blow, following the decision two-and-a-half years earlier to suddenly make my then position as general manager at a Portlethen based company redundant.

In early 2020, there were some feelings, at last, of renewed optimism coming back into the energy services market after a prolonged downturn, which could be traced all the way back to the oil price slump in the autumn of 2014. Against this backdrop, and after the initial shock of losing my job, I dusted myself down.

There were a lot of promising early discussions at the beginning of March – then came the realisation that Covid-19 was about to hit our shores, and that some form of national lockdown was inevitable. As soon as lockdown was enacted, uncertainty levels rocketed, and with this recruiter calls and emails went dead.

Many oil and gas workers have been left uncertain about the future of their jobs (Photo: QiuJu Song/Shutterstock)

I knew the pandemic would change the oil and gas industry

While I was confident in my abilities to ultimately secure new employment in the energy sector, I knew that the pandemic would have a negative impact on it – although perhaps not to the extent where we witnessed a negative price for oil in the US, due to massive oversupply in late April 2020. And this came off the back of increasing calls for a reduction in the extraction of fossil fuels, to help limit the effects of climate change.

During this period of intense uncertainty, I used my time to reflect carefully and reassess all of my options going forward. One of those was to seriously explore changing career and getting into teaching.

Salaries and financial packages were higher in the oil and gas industry, but the job security certainly was not

This seed had been planted by one of my aunts, herself a former teacher, following my first redundancy. Although I found a new job shortly after this conversation, the idea stayed dormant and had remained at the back of my mind until the second, unexpected redundancy.

Salaries and financial packages were higher in the oil and gas industry, but the job security certainly was not. In mid-April 2020, at the height of the first lockdown, I had a big decision to make. I had to weigh up finances and my 20 years of industry experience versus job security and satisfaction, along with personal reward.

Take the leap and change career

I was fast-tracked for interview at the University of Aberdeen’s School of Education and managed to secure a place on their 2020-21 intake, for a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE). After a month-long wait, my Scottish Government STEM Bursary was approved, which provided me with financial security for my year in academia as a student teacher.

At this point, I made the final decision to commit to teacher training and start a new career, where I could bring my knowledge and skills to support the learning of our children and young people.

Mark has found a new fulfilling challenge in teaching (Photo: arrowsmith2/Shutterstock)

After successfully completing my studies and graduating with my PGDE this July, I’m currently undergoing my probationary year at an Aberdeenshire Council secondary school, and thoroughly enjoying the experience. Teaching is a challenging yet rewarding profession.

Despite spending 20 years in the oil and gas industry and working diligently throughout that time, I can safely say that I had never worked as hard as during my student teaching year, with my studies and university requirements to meet, along with lesson planning and administrative tasks to be recorded.

I would honestly encourage anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation to make the leap and embrace the opportunity to change career. If you are sitting on the fence, it will be hard work, but I’m sure you won’t regret it.

Mark Graham is currently studying to be a chemistry and science teacher

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