Every part of the world’s economy has been affected by climate change; Covid19 and the new ways of working this has produced; the events in the Ukraine and related political sanctions. Yet no industry has been as heavily affected by all these as the energy sector – and it’s using digital learning to move forward.


Countries and energy companies are now focusing on energy security as well as the implications of events in Ukraine on Russian energy production and supply – particularly of gas. At the same time, they are working on strategic transitions to cleaner energy, in a bid to reduce global warming.


All these issues have major implications for learning and development (L&D) specialists – both those working in the energy sector and the learning and assessment specialists supplying operators in this sector.


Key players


All the key players in the energy sector publish, on their websites, an energy transition document and an energy transition target. There is a huge amount of work going on in the background, working on strategic and operational plans to achieve that target. The number of change projects, new processes and procedures emanating from this are creating a plethora of learning requirements – particularly creating demand for digital learning and assessment materials and management platforms.


As always, safety and compliance are key in this highly regulated industry sector that – with the oil and gas sector alone producing revenues of some $3.3 trillion in 2019 – plays a major role in the world economy.


Safety and Compliance


So, increasingly, L&D activities – including records and results – are focused on achieving the high degree of safety and compliance that the industry, its customers and, indeed, the planet require. At the same time – to combat the effects of climate change – there is a significant growth in the renewable energy sector around the world. Among the results of this is the increase in demand for online-delivered L&D materials and assessments as those working in ‘traditional’ parts of the energy industry transfer to the renewables sector.


“It’s difficult to talk about energy recovery from the pandemic in isolation from the climate emergency and transition plans, as well as national energy security in a tumultuous world,” explained Susan Gearing (pictured), the senior energy sector specialist at eCom Learning Solutions (https://ecomlearningsolutions.com/), a company with global reach that creates learning solutions to help organisations achieve their goals, focusing on the delivery, tracking and reporting of workforce learning and development through innovative technologies. Its products and services address a range of workforce management, development and training challenges, including eLearning, online assessment, blended learning, competency management and accreditation. It’s working with industry and government to provide competency management; skills gap analysis; digital learning, along with performance support and continuous improvement materials.


“During the Covid19 pandemic, operators needed to run their installations and keep their people safe,” said Susan. “At the same time as the pandemic bit, there were reductions in demand and, as a result, output. Some maintenance projects were delayed or postponed. There was also a downturn in exploration drilling as the major players focused on near-term production and high impact wells only. This had a knock-on effect across the supply chain, with contractors being worst hit. As a result, every energy key worker had to learn new processes and procedures and meet new hygiene standards.


Fossil Fuels – and Renewable Energy


“Given the need to reduce humanity’s dependence on fossil fuels because of global warming and climate change among other things, renewables – solar, wind and wave power – are key for the future,” continued Susan – and wind power now accounts for 73% of all renewable output in eCom’s native Scotland.


As well as working with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to help smaller companies reduce their environmental footprint, eCom has been developing bespoke eLearning materials for the engineering innovator, Pict Offshore (http://www.pictoffshore.com/), to help make offshore wind turbine maintenance technicians’ jobs safer – especially when they are working in rough seas.


“Furthermore, eCom has helped the International Well Control Forum (IWCF) (https://www.iwcf.org/) – which administers training, assessment and certification programmes for the oil and gas industry’s exploration and production sector – to reduce its environmental impact by using eAssessments, along with digital badges instead of paper certificates for a programme that deals with some 30,000 candidates annually,” Susan revealed.


Assessing Geoscientists


An eCom-developed online self-assessment tool (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDYaHQFLAL4) which benchmarks individuals’ skills and identifies skills gaps within the international operational geoscience community is establishing a worldwide presence within nine months of its launch. Developed for Operations Geoscience International Competency Assessment (OGICA), a UK-registered, not-for-profit collective of experienced energy industry professionals, the tool is currently attracting strong interest in North America, the Middle East and Australia as well as throughout Europe.


“In today’s fast-paced energy world, relying purely on previous education, references, continuing professional development (CPD), work experience and organisational membership needs to be augmented by being able to validate – as immediately as possible – practitioners’ proficiency to work to a recognised standard,” explained OGICA’s Christine Telford. “That’s what the OGICA/ eCom tool offers – and, as such, it’s continuing to generate interest on an increasingly worldwide scale from geoscientists in this global industry.”


Helping people re-focus their energy-related industry skills – along with up-skilling and re-skilling for the energy industry – are key ways in which eCom is contributing to achieving the aims of the UK’s and the Scottish Government’s Energy Strategies. A member of both Offshore Energies UK (OEUK), the leading representative body for the UK offshore oil and gas industry, as well as of DeepWind (https://www.offshorewindscotland.org.uk/deepwind-cluster/), an organisation intended to increase supply chain competitiveness and productivity to the renewable energy sector in Scotland – notably in the rapidly expanding offshore wind market in Scotland – eCom is helping companies in this sector assess and digitally certificate their workforces’ skills. Furthermore, eCom is developing company-specific digital learning materials – which can be made available online or offline via eCom’s learning management system – to develop relevant skills and help those who need to port their existing oil and gas related skills to the skills relevant to the renewables sector.


The UK aims to grow its low-carbon and nature sectors to cover some 2m full-time-equivalent roles by 2030. According to research from Ernst & Young (EY), in a study commissioned by The European Climate Foundation and published in July 2021, the £500m in public finance spent on clean energy projects in the UK since 2016 has generated some £50bn in private investment.


Decarbonisation, Clean Energy – and Jobs


Wendy Edie, eCom’s Managing Director, commented, “The UK’s focus on decarbonisation and clean energy is set to unlock 625,000 jobs, which is equivalent to 90% of the jobs lost to the coronavirus pandemic – and each of these have learning and assessment requirements, which eCom provides. In addition, EY’s research found that 13,000 clean energy projects look set to be built globally, amounting to more than $2trn in investment opportunities and up to one Terawatt of additional renewable generation capacity.”


Susan Gearing observed, “Energy storage is still a challenge and prices are on the increase. Using Green Hydrogen as a de-carboniser alongside electrification is, currently, a key initiative. Investment in carbon capture and storage (CCS) is growing. As many research and development (R&D) projects move into mainstream production, there will be a need to increase competency, knowledge and skills across industry – with a consequent rise in demand for digitally delivered learning and assessment materials.


“Basically, we won’t see significant change in the energy sector’s mindset without significant change in knowledge, skills and behaviours – and this change, for a workforce that tends to be geographically spread and operating in adverse environments, can be most effectively delivered digitally,” she added. “To meet this need, eCom focuses on supporting organisations to implement digital workforce learning that enables the changes in behaviour and the transfer of knowledge and skills to support this move.”