Six colleges and universities have come together to address the industry’s chronic skills shortage with forecasts that the industry will need up to 95,000 new recruits over the next seven years.
During a visit to Aberdeen College’s offshore training centre, Mr Salmond also announced plans to double the Scottish Government’s funding to £6.5 million to improve oil and gas training facilities and develop other energy sector skills courses through a new body known as Energy Skills Scotland.
And he said the North Sea oil and gas industry could provide a job for life for school leavers and graduates as well as engineers and technicians looking to embark on a new career.
Mr Salmond declared: “We have to keep pace with the tremendous demand for people. A few years ago people were believing this nonsense about the oil and gas industry being a sunset industry. A key point that is being made behind this announcement is that the energy industries in Scotland are sunrise industries - not sunset industries.
“Oil and gas is going to be with us for at least half a century and the value to be extracted from the waters around Scotland is greater - perhaps substantially greater - than what has been extracted so far. There is a career for life in Scotland in the energy industry.”
He said: “Scotland’s energy industry – across all sectors – needs 95,000 more people between now and 2020. This is a huge opportunity for Scotland. By ensuring our workforce has the right skills and training, Energy Skills Scotland will support our energy industry and ensure people can access the jobs that are available. It’s a win-win situation.
“Scotland is a major oil and gas producer with reserves worth up to £1.5 trillion according to Scottish Government estimates – although academic estimates have put it much higher.
“Our unrivalled wind, wave and tidal resources, huge carbon storage capacity, electricity transmission expertise, combined with our engineering expertise, position us as a leading hub for the global development of offshore renewables and CCS technology.”
Mr Salmond continued: “To keep pace with our potential, we must continue developing our talent and skills supply and we must ensure Scotland has the capacity to deliver the qualified workforce the industry needs.
“First priority for ESS is to help the oil and gas industry address its immediate skills challenges, particularly in the North east. The Oil & Gas Academy for Scotland, rooted in the North east but with important provision at institutions across the country, will play a key role in meeting those challenges.”
And he claimed: “If we can convince the oil and gas industry that we can provide the people over the long term to take these jobs which are on offer, then more companies will locate more facilities here in Scotland because they will know this is a country which can supply the people to do the job.”
The new Oil & Gas Academy of Scotland (OGAS) is a collaboration between Aberdeen, Heriot Watt and Robert Gordon universities, and the Banff and Buchan, Aberdeen and Forth Valley colleges.
In the short term the aim is provide 1000 new transitional training places to “up-skill’ technicians and professionals looking to transfer to work in the energy sector as well as training hundreds of apprentices a year. Robert Gordon University will be used as one stop shop for energy training and courses in colleges and universities across the whole of Scotland – from Thurso to Dumfries.
Malcolm Webb, the chief Executive of Oil and Gas UK, the pan industry trade organisation, welcomed the initiative.
He said: “Oil & Gas UK welcome the launch of ESS and its potential to bring greatly improved focus on the skills challenges we face as a result of high levels of activity and global competition in our industry.
“We look forward to continuing the very constructive engagement we have had with the Scottish Government on ESS and on further developing this initiative in support of our dynamic and important industry.”
Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski, Principal of Robert Gordon University, said the new Oil and Gas Academy would be able to train as many new recruits to the industries as are needed.
He explained: “We have set ourselves up in such away that we can be extremely flexible and can expand capacity to whatever is needed in a very short space of time. We will upscale to whatever is needed.”
Sandra Walker, director of curriculum and learning at Aberdeen College who chairs the OGAS Management Group said: “One of our aims is to work with schools and local authorities to attract more young people – including young women – to the oil and gas and wider energy sectors. In addition, OGAS will oversee and participate in the promotion of careers in the oil and gas and wider energy industry and will work to attract more employees to the industry and the region.”