Michael Williamson

Two years ago Michael Williamson finished a mechanical apprenticeship with Shetland Island Council Ferries on a Friday afternoon, only to start a new as an instrument technician apprentice on the Oil and Gas Technical Apprentice Programme (OGTAP) the following Monday morning.

The 23 year old from Shetland applied for the scheme in an effort to try and secure a job in the oil and gas industry. He said: “I knew an apprenticeship was the right career path for me after leaving school, but wanted to better my chances of getting a job in the oil and gas sector once I was qualified. The opportunity to work closely with companies in the industry as part of this programme was very appealing.”

OGTAP  (formerly the UK Upstream Oil and Gas Industry Technician Training Scheme UOGITTS) is recognised as one of the most successful apprenticeships in the UK. Managed by oil and gas industry skills organisation OPITO and the Engineering and Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB), the programme started in 1999 and now has 19 sponsoring companies from the oil and gas sector on board.

Now coming to the end of his second year on the programme, Michael is preparing to start working for major industry operator, BP. The Shetlander will be returning home to work onshore at BP’s Sullom Voe terminal, where he will be placed with an onsite mentor as part of a placement lasting around two years.

“I feel confident about starting work at Sullom Voe,as I have already done a lot of work and training for rig work on a model installation at EdinburghCollege, where I studied,” said Michael. “All of my tutors there were former workers from the industry, and some still work in oil and gas, so every step of my training has been with highly experienced people from the sector. I’m glad that will continue with my mentor from BP during this next phase of my apprenticeship.”

During the first 21 months of the programme, apprentices attend college full time where they obtain several qualifications including a Higher National Certificate in their chosen discipline. After that time, each apprentice undergoes a placement within an oil and gas company for the remainder of their apprenticeship. Despite ongoing challenges faced by the industry due to a decline in oil price and high exploration costs, Michael is confident that his training on the OGTAP scheme will prepare him for success in a competitive job market.

“I’m not worried about the job market, because I’m on the best oil and gas apprenticeship programme in Britain and will finish with excellent experience and qualifications. There are plenty of jobs for instrument technicians, not just in the UK, but also abroad. I’ll have opportunities to travel with work that I’d be unlikely to have in other industries.”

Michael Williamson, Instrument and Control Maintenance OGTAP Apprentice