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When the downturn in the oil and gas sector began to bite, Ian Watson-Ross found his options for securing work were quickly beginning to diminish.

The father-of-two from Crieff in Perthshire had 14 years’ experience as a health and safety consultant in the sector when the work dried up.

With fewer posts available and a greater number of people chasing them, employers were increasingly looking for more qualifications, leading the 43-year-old to consider ways improving of his own CV.

After identifying a postgraduate course that could boost his employment chances, Ian applied to the Transition Training Fund for support.

“When the downturn began in the oil and gas industry, companies started asking for degree level candidates in health and safety as there was a large amount of people looking for work,” Ian said.

“They could set the bar higher and ask for the minimum of a Bachelor’s degree, which I didn’t have.”

The Transition Training Fund is administered on behalf of the Scottish Government by Skills Development Scotland (SDS).

Ian initially applied to the fund while still in work and was turned down, but after re-applying he worked with a Transition Training Fund adviser at SDS to ensure his application met the requirements.

“It’s a scary thing being made redundant, and the oil and gas sector is an ageing industry. If re-training can help people like me stay in the sector then it helps keep a lot of experience which might otherwise be lost.”

Ian Watson-Ross

“I spent a bit of time with the adviser on the application, and eventually it was approved,” he said.

“I had to provide evidence of the drop in salary that I’d taken, and evidence that I had been applying for posts which now required candidates who were educated to degree-level.

“I was looking to study a one-year distance learning postgraduate certificate in occupational health and safety management with the University of Portsmouth which cost just under £3000.

“Money was obviously tight at the time and if it wasn’t for the Transition Training Fund and the support I received in applying, I wouldn’t have been able to gain this qualification.”

Daunting prospect

Ian admits that the prospect of returning to education following 14 years in the industry, plus a decade before that in the military, was a daunting one.

“I didn’t know what to expect as I had been out the education system for such a long time,” he said.

“I doubted whether I would be able to go back to that level of study.

“Speaking with the university put me at ease as they thought I’d be fine with it due to everything I’d done, and I was fine with it.

“It took all my experience from the oil and gas industry and from the military, along with my education, and it tied it all together into a qualification that’s recognised around the world. I actually got a Distinction.”

The qualification provided the missing link on Ian’s CV. After a short stint working in Angola, he secured a post in Kuwait before his studies had even finished.

He said: “I’ve always worked in safety offshore, on drilling rigs coaching and teaching personnel, and I’m pretty much doing that in Kuwait.

“My title now is Deep Drilling and Workover HSE Supervisor. I look after two or three rigs and oversee the contractor, making sure safety standards and procedures are being adhered to.

“The only reason I got that was because I was due to finish my postgraduate course. There’s no chance I would have got that without it.

“I’m still applying for positions as I’d like to work in Scotland again, and now my CV is getting more interest as I’ve got this postgraduate certification.”

Keeping experience

The Transition Training Fund is open to anyone who has worked in the oil and gas sector or in the oil and gas supply chain as an employee or contractor and has either been made redundant or is at risk of redundancy.

Applicants must be actively looking for work and be able to show that the training they wish to undertake will help them find a new job.

As a result of his experience, Ian would recommend that others in his situation look to the Transition Training Fund, and believes it’s important for the long-term health of the oil and gas sector as well for helping people like him get back into work.

“I would recommend it,” he said. “At that point in your life, if you’re looking for education or re-training, you need all the help you can get.

“It’s a scary thing being made redundant, and the oil and gas sector is an ageing industry. If re-training can help people like me stay in the sector then it helps keep a lot of experience which might otherwise be lost.”

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