Developing environmentally conscious offshore training in the North Atlantic

Stavanger Offshore Technical College (SOTS) is leading a project supported by Nordplus Horizontal which aims at developing the education and training in oil and gas in cooperation with local authorities and the industries.

The FING project, (which stands for the Faraoe Islands, Iceland, Norway and Greenland) is supported through Nordplus Horizontal and was initiated after a trip to Greenland in 2011, where SOTS was invited by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In addition to SOTS, the partners in the project are institutions from Greenland, Iceland and the Faraoe Islands; areas who aim for greater exploitation of their own oil and gas resources. The goal of the project is to develop a training that ensures that environmental concerns remain a priority in these vulnerable areas.

Øystein Førsvoll, director at SOTS, made contact with a Greenlandic vocational school and saw that SOTS could assist the Greenlandic institution in developing the education in the direction of their aim for more local participation in the offshore industry.

It is important that the education is ahead of the development in the industry, says Førsvoll. If it’s not, the necessary skills and labour are often imported, and the local population misses opportunities both to participate and influence, and not to mention many jobs. 

Safety and environmental considerations

SOTS also came in contact with schools in Iceland and the Faroe Islands, and the project is now focused on establishing a network for education in the oil and gas industries in the North Atlantic.

Key words such as safety and environmental considerations are crucial in an industry that is very profit driven, and therefore these aspects must be taken into consideration from the very beginning when educational programs are being developed, says Stella Aguirre, project manager for the FING project.

– We can brag a bit and say that we are experienced at this in Norway. The lessons from many years in the industry, and not to mention many accidents and near-misses, have made us learn.

Initially, the project seeks to gain an overview of the situation of offshore education in the participating countries, what they can learn from each other, and take a look at how to develop educational programs in cooperation with the industry and policy guidelines.

– For us, it is important to have good relations with the industry, and our participation in these projects will help us to strengthen these contacts, says Førsvoll. - The experience from the relationship between industry and education is an important knowledge that we bring into all international projects, including FING.

Long traditions in maritime education

SOTS was formerly called Stavanger Maritime School and has long traditions in educating sailors and other maritime professions. The school is located by the waterfront at Tasta with a beautiful overview of the seaway approach to Stavanger, and now offers education within vocational courses, technical colleges and its own training center.

Their main focus is now to offer training for various professions in the oil and gas industries, as well as providing a technical college education with different specializations within the offshore field. 

The training center is a department of SOTS which offers various courses for those working offshore, especially within safety, fire-fighting and emergencies, but also within other fields. 

From Stavanger to Cape Town

Stella Aguirre is the project manager at the SOTS training center, and is involved in several international projects at the school. She shows us around in the buildings that contain a lot of venerable maritime tradition, but now also host state of the art simulators used for drilling for oil in the seabed.

Stella is originally from South Africa, but now feels really at home in Stavanger. Contacts in her homeland were important for SOTS getting engaged in SOTSbikes, which is the SOTS-students’ contribution to Operation Day’s Work (ODW), a student solidarity movement.

In this project, the school collects used bikes that the students repair, and the bikes are then sent to Cape Town where they are given to children and young people from poor areas. Having their own bike makes it easier for them to get out of the slums and attend school or work.