NORTH Sea oil and gas workers are being deterred from moving into renewables by the hefty bills they face to obtain qualifications that effectively duplicate those they already hold, campaigners have claimed.

Greenpeace said a survey it supported found workers are currently forced to pay out thousands of pounds of their own money for training courses before being hired, with no guarantee of work, and are routinely having to repeat training they have already done.

The scale of the problem has increased amid the deep downturn in the North Sea that was triggered by the coronavirus crisis. This has resulted in thousands of job losses in the area.

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“There’s lots of people worrying about how they’re going to pay the mortgage,” said one of the respondents to the survey, a father of two from Fife.

He added: “I have thought about working in renewables, but that’d be thousands of pounds you’d have to pay to work in both industries. It’d just be too much, it costs an absolute fortune just to stay in one sector.”

Greenpeace warned that the training cost problem could impede efforts to utilise the skills and experience of people working in the oil and gas industry to speed the development of renewable energy facilities on the scale required.

The costs will put significant obstacles in the way of the completion of the ‘just transition’ that groups such as Greenpeace say must be supported in the North Sea, where they want oil and gas activity to be curbed.

HeraldScotland: Mel Evans is head of Greenpeace UK's oil campaignMel Evans is head of Greenpeace UK's oil campaign

This will require enough jobs to be created in renewables and related industries to make up for those that are expected to be lost in the oil and gas sector.

Ryan Morrison, Just Transition Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “The skills and experience of offshore workers are vital to enable a rapid shift to renewable energy, but workers cannot be expected to fork out thousands from their own pocket to duplicate qualifications they already have.”

He added: “Promises of green jobs mean little when this training regime holds back the opportunity to move between sectors. It is time for politicians to listen to these workers by creating a regulated training passport to ensure a just transition for offshore workers.”

Trades unions said the results of the survey underlined the challenges faced by lots of people with skills gained working in the North Sea oil and gas sector amid tough times in the industry.

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John Boland, Regional Officer for Unite the Union, said: “Our members have made it clear to us that training costs and duplication of training are a major issue for them, particularly since the downturn, caused by Covid and the fall in oil and gas prices.

“Many of our members have been made redundant, and are having to pay thousands of pounds to have their training and medical certificates updated, so they can get work.”

Campaigners said the Scottish Government needed to address a problem they said resulted from the casualisation of the North Sea workforce. Companies have been able to put the onus on workers to pay for their own training and to navigate a complex landscape which involves a range of standards bodies.

The campaigners are calling for the introduction of an Offshore Training Passport which will allow workers to move freely between energy sectors, and for the the creation of a “substantial “ training fund that workers can draw on. They say the Scottish Government should lead on the process.

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The survey of more than 300 Scottish offshore workers, by Friends of the Earth Scotland, Platform and Greenpeace, supported by the RMT and Unite Scotland unions, found they had on average spent £1,627 per year on training. Some 61% of Scottish respondents said employers had paid none of their training costs in the past two years.Workers were often required to repeat existing training when starting a contract with a new employer or when starting a new contract with the same employer and when moving to jobs in other offshore sectors.

The respondents included a drilling consultant who has spent £1,400 on training costs in the last two years but was put on furlough during the pandemic. After his certificates lapsed he found it would cost £2,100 to complete the training needed to get back to work.