Tapping into the offshore industry

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EFFORTS are being made to reduce the unemployment figures in the county by targeting an expanding industry.

Support is growing for the Northeast Press Keep Northumberland Working campaign which aims to highlight the potential investment opportunities in the county as well as those companies expanding.

And one enterprise agency which aims to do that is Northumberland Business Services Limited (NBSL).

The organisation, which operates in Northumberland and across the North East, aims to encourage more people to start up businesses, particularly those in disadvantaged areas.

Over the last 10 years, the organisation has helped more than 5,000 people turn their ideas into reality.

But concerns have been raised about the continual growth in unemployment in Northumberland, despite more people becoming highly skilled in the workforce.

As a result, bosses at NBSL have come up with what they call an exciting project for the county, which could see more people receive specialised training and a chance to land a job in an expanding industry – the offshore industry.

Talks have begun with a number of Norwegian companies involved in the oil and gas industry who are struggling to find sufficient highly-skilled workers.

Phil Langton, NBSL managing director, said: “The concept we are developing was introduced by one of our board members, Ken Beattie, who has an extensive list of contacts throughout the world in the oil and gas sector.

“The initial idea is to tap into the large demand currently required in one particular country, Norway, for a full array of skilled workers covering a number of disciplines including mechanical engineers, electricians, pipe fitters, welders, CAD operators and document controllers.”

The move comes at a time when there is uncertainty around 515 jobs at the Rio Tinto Alcan aluminium smelter at Lynemouth.

If the plant was to close, despite a campaign underway to save it, officials at NBSL say there would be an opportunity for those employees, and others currently unemployed in the county, to receive the necessary training.

Mr Beattie said: “Currently, Norway is experiencing a dearth of skilled workers and with it being only one hour away and with regular flights from Newcastle to Stavanger, and offshore conditions being attractive, modern and comfortable, coupled with working rotas of two weeks spent offshore and three weeks back at home, in my opinion offers a viable opportunity to many of our workers.

“With the plan that we have developed, we aim to educate people just what to do and how to go about it.”

NBSL has already started discussions with Northumberland College to use its Ashington site as a training base, and the college has signed up as a partner in the scheme.

Officials from several Norwegian companies are due to visit the region next month to see first-hand how the training could help them.

Mr Beattie added: “Through Northumberland College, we aim to fine- tune the available skills and even help with offshore survival courses.

“In helping to achieve this aim, we have arranged a delegation of several senior people from Norwegian blue chip companies to visit Ashington at the end of January to hold further talks with our committee.”

Mark Bolton, assistant principal at Northumberland College, responsible for industrial training, said: “As well as wanting to gain access to our workforce, the Norwegian companies are extremely interested in our training facilities at the college.

“The idea of linking up such international players really excites everyone at the college both in the short term and longer term opportunities.”

For more information, contact Ken on 07740 081048 or email kbb.techflow@googlemail.com