Re-deploy Armed Forces personnel to fill skills gap

Picture: Ed Jones
Picture: Ed Jones
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Former Armed Forces personnel hold the key to filling Scotland’s energy skills gap. There is a high number of technically skilled and qualified people coming out of the forces, and this number will only rise as the government makes more cuts to the services.

Employers will find that ex-forces personnel have a combination of skills and well-rounded working backgrounds that makes them ideal candidates for the oil and gas industry. However, hiring managers will need to be more flexible with selection criteria if the skills gap is to be addressed.

There are too many people who have worked in highly skilled and rigorously trained positions in the services who are stacking shelves in supermarkets. It’s time to re-deploy this rich resource of people to an industry that desperately needs them.

For example, someone who has worked in the forces may have trained in mechanical engineering, but they will also have had experience in electrical and hydraulic engineering. While all experience is valuable, hiring managers need to look at those which are transferable.

Punctuality, accuracy and the ability to follow procedures are just some of the traits that make forces personnel great for the offshore industry. If something goes wrong, they have the determination to find a solution, using whatever tools necessary until they can fix it. This is a big deal in the offshore industry.

Services personnel have the ability to learn new lessons and adapt to new surroundings very quickly. It doesn’t take them long to get experienced. However, a lot of hiring managers and final decision-makers look for specific experiences and information on CVs, and have a tendency to overlook those which fail to match up exactly. Each hiring manager has an idea of the perfect recruit: someone who has been working offshore for six or seven years in the same position and in the same company. But this ideal candidate does not exist.

If hiring managers were more flexible, the industry would see rewards. While there may remain a significant burden on hiring managers from a safety and legal perspective, there needs to be greater flexibility within the selection criteria. That way, the skills gap will be bridged.

• Jacqueline van den Akker is director at oil and gas recruitment consultancy RedWave


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