Stuart Ferguson has just completed his final year in the OGTAP apprenticeship scheme, he did his work placement as a Shetland based trainee working at the Shetland Gas Plant with Aker Solutions.
How did you find out about the industry apprenticeship scheme?
I found out about the apprenticeship opportunity in an advert in the local paper. I was also made aware of the scheme through various careers fares held during the last year I was at school. I also had a few friends that had done the course who also recommended it to me.
What inspired you to apply?
There are many men & women from Shetland that I know working at the Shetland Gas Plant or Sullom Voe Oil Terminal. Speaking to these people about their experiences and quality of life working in the oil and gas industry inspired me to apply. I also fancied myself working a rotational job dealing with challenging environments and tasks. Speaking to anyone in the oil and gas industry really made it clear to me that it was the industry I wanted to get into.
What were your perceptions of the oil and gas industry before starting?
Before starting I did not know much about the industry. I knew it was a challenging/dangerous environment to be working. I also knew that there were a huge pool of people working in the industry and I was keen to meet and work with interesting people. I understood that there were a lot of money within the industry so knew that there would be cutting edge technology to get to work on, understand, fault find and install/maintain.
What was the best element of the training?
I was lucky enough to get an apprenticeship at the Shetland Gas Plant. After my two years at college learning the basic principles of instrumentation I got the chance to put what I’d learned in college into practice. This was the was the best element of the training for me as it actually made me use the knowledge I had gained and it made all the hard work at college pay off. It was very satisfying working on complex systems on a live gas plant and understand the basic principles on how it worked.
What has been the most challenging part of it
The most challenging part of the scheme for me was just keeping up with the course work. Some days during college I had assessments for a few different classes and still had to keep on top of all the log book entries required for various practical exercises. This was stressful but I over came this quite easily by setting myself a strict routine to keep on top of all course work. Another challenge was beginning the college phase and then starting at the gas plant. It is always very daunting starting new things when you don’t know anyone else that is going to be there. It was soon apparent to me that everyone on the course was in the same boat and everyone supported and made friends with each other very quickly. Again when I started at the gas plant everyone was there to look out for me and I felt very much part of the team after my first trip or two.
How did your apprenticeship prepare you for entering the working oil and gas industry?
The apprenticeship scheme prepared me for working in the oil and gas industry by learning techniques & skills from highly experienced lecturers at college. A lot of the lecturers at college were ex oil and gas works men & women who had incredible knowledge of the oil and gas industry and working environments (Some being as high up as previous OIM’s (Offshore Installation Managers)). It was very convenient to be able to ask any questions myself or my classmates had about working in the industry and to learn from their past experiences. Speaking to them set the scene as to what to expect when going onto to a real working environment.
How does being on the industry training scheme help you compared to your peers in terms of progressing your career?
I gained multiple qualifications during and on completion of this scheme, from an National Certificate to a Modern Apprenticeship in Instrument & Control. This now has left me with the option to progress in my career by either further learning (i.e open university) or through natural job progression on site. Now that I have gained my final qualification through the scheme it is down to me on how far I want to push myself.
What was your ideal job after you finish your apprenticeship?
I was lucky enough to be taken on full time by Aker Solutions at the Shetland Gas Plant on completion of my apprenticeship. This was always my goal and during my apprenticeship I ensured to apply myself and fulfill my full potential at all times to give me the best chance of getting kept on. All the hard work during the four years really did pay off as I am now on a rotational job local to Shetland.
Given the current climate of job losses within the industry, why would you encourage young people to enter the oil and gas industry - what are the rewards?
The oil and gas industry in Scotland has gone through a very tough time with thousands of job losses. Hopefully now the worst is over and the industry is now on the up. The oil price is now at the highest it’s been in nearly four years which is very promising. I would encourage any young person who is willing to work hard in various different environments to enter the industry as it is one of the most challenging yet rewarding jobs there is. The salary is very competitive and so is the time off you gain by working on a rotation. It also provides the opportunity to work on some of the most cutting edge technologies there is. Every day is different and you don’t know what to expect, and that’s one of the best parts of the job.
What advice would you give to young people thinking of entering the industry after you?
Some advice I would give to anyone that is planning to apply to the scheme would be to apply themselves fully to any education or experiences they are currently doing. If they are lucky enough to get an interview I would suggest they come over as confident and mature as possible. I would also suggest if they are considering to apply just to go for it. I was lucky enough to get on the scheme and have never looked back.