Blogs & Thoughts

Using Space to nurture skills

This article was originally published in Energy Voice in September 2023

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  • Date 6th September 2023
  • Author Steve Judge

When Space Solutions’ consultancy team conducted its latest survey to take the temperature of the workplace sector, we asked organisations across Scotland about their biggest challenges over the past year.

While we suspected that sustainability would rank first, interestingly it didn’t register as high as we thought. Although environmental responsibility is the biggest talking point, it’s not yet the most difficult challenge. In fact, top of the list was staffing: from recruitment and retention to training and skills.

The transition within the north-east’s economy from carbon-based energy sources to renewables will create significant opportunities in the short, medium and long term for many local businesses. For organisations to maximise the benefits from this transition, they need the appropriate infrastructure in place, as well as the necessary skills within the workforce to not only deliver innovation, but also to manage their less eye-catching but essential day-to-day operational activities.

Within the last 50 years, the energy industry has built a repertoire of skills that will be directly transferrable to the renewables sector, such as electrical engineering and health and safety.

According to Robert Gordon University, 90% of oil and gas workers have medium to high skills transferability. However, as we have seen with every technological revolution that has come before, we need to identify what these new skills could be. This needs the help of local educational establishments that are now leading the way by redesigning curriculums to fit the capabilities of the transitioning energy sector.

Many of these skills will be technical and academic, but softer skills must not fall by the wayside. Collaborating and networking may not seem essential to everyone, but calling on different teams from various disciplines within, and outwith, your organisation will be crucial in problem-solving.

Space Solutions recently held a series of roundtables across Scotland with the next generation of talent from the public, private and third sectors. One key finding was that training was critical for young professionals, with many participants having reported choosing their current employer because of their commitment to professional development.

From formal mentoring to casual connections in the workplace, the next generation is keen to learn from their peers. In fact, the senior staff we had surveyed echoed a similar sentiment, recognising that organic learning often occurred in the physical workplace where both generations could collaborate.

With the continued demand for training across the workforce, workplaces within the oil and gas industry may shift towards becoming more of a collaboration hub to upskill employees in renewables skills.

However, where this training needs to be formally carried out, and potentially accredited, businesses need to ensure that they have correct physical facilities and IT to support.

Creating purpose-driven facilities that contribute towards a modern working environment, while also supporting informal collaboration, will be vital for the burgeoning renewables industry.

It is an opportunity to tailor the workplace to organisational needs as well as the expectations of the emerging green workforce. Space Solutions has a long history of designing practical training facilities for local oil and gas businesses as well as learning, teaching, work and social spaces within educational institutions. These projects involve thinking about issues such as “How many desks do we need?” or “What kind of informal working areas should we have?” and creating the type of workspaces that will attract and retain employees. By getting the most out of their workspace, organisations can free up space for more strategic activity across the business.

With Scotland’s reputation for cutting-edge innovation, many global organisations have chosen this country because of our skilled workforce. We must continue to invest in our people, providing businesses with the competitive advantage that will help grow our economy, and ensuring that we capitalise on the transition to renewables is not just an opportunity for the north-east, but in many cases, this challenge begins in the spaces where we work.

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