The gas industry is going through unprecedented change. Energy & Utility Skills reports that more than 50 per cent of senior gas mangers plan to retire by 2020, and this is happening at a time of huge technical change, which together presents a huge challenge for our industry. How do we ensure that we retain expertise and experience and safeguard knowledge transfer? This brings us to the basic question of how do we train our new engineers to ensure we have a workforce that can meet the challenges the gas industry faces in the 21st century?
This question has been debated by the Gas Industry Safety Group (GISG) because a number of organisations and individuals have contacted us to express their concerns about the disparities in the training received by downstream gas engineers. Anecdotal evidence suggests serious shortcomings in the training available to would-be gas engineers, with some short courses claiming to train engineers within two weeks.
In response, GISG and the Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers (IGEM) commissioned a piece of work to get to the bottom of this worrying trend.
What our research found did nothing to allay our fears. Not only was there a huge disparity in the length and quality of training new entrants received, but respondents also noted that some colleges were coaching and allowing failing students to retake the tests as many times as they needed to pass, with scant regard for the individual’s competence.
Our concern is that this type of inferior training not only endangers consumers but also does a grave disservice to many potentially able engineers, who are not receiving the support they need.
We were told that most new entrants felt that although the training gave an overview, it was not a substitute for hands-on experience. Indeed, those new entrants we spoke to who felt most confident and competent had undergone extended on-the-job training.
GISG, IGEM and our industry colleagues are working with our friends in Westminster to establish a parliamentary inquiry to look in greater detail at the issues our research has identified. We believe it is time for a belt and braces review looking at the issue of engineer training in detail, what its shortcomings are and how government and industry can ensure we have a competent and experienced workforce who will maintain gas safety now and into the future.