Ashley Thomas, is in his 2nd year of the Oil and Gas Technicians Apprenticeship Programme (OGTAP) in the Process Operations discipline.
He studies 3 days a week at the North East Scotland College & practical learning 2 days a week with ASET.
How did you find out about the industry apprenticeship scheme?
I first found out about the apprenticeship scheme after being given a very informative presentation and talk from a previous apprentice, and the head of recruitment of OPITO during my time at Peterhead Academy. This initially interested me in the modern apprenticeship itself and the career development opportunities it possessed, however I sought further information and attended the 'Energise Your Future' event held at the AECC by OPITO.
What inspired you to apply?
Having spoken to OPITO's CEO John McDonald at the 'Energise Your Future' event and a relative who is an Operations Supervisor for BP, I took a keen interest into both the Oil & Gas Industry and the Oil & Gas Technical Apprentice Programme. Along with John's informative insight, and my relative's captivating explanations of key Oil & Gas concepts such as process optimisation and production efficiency, growing up right next door to St Fergus Gas Terminal cemented my keen inspiration into working in this industry. I felt this apprenticeship would springboard my career into one with a balance between social experiences and working away from home.
What were your perceptions of the oil and gas industry before starting?
I perceived the industry to be completely focussed on the extraction and production of Oil & Gas with little to no regard of Health & Safety. I thought this because I'd heard the horror stories of Piper Alpha and Deepwater Horizon, and had also been told about the horrific accidents involving helicopters heading to and from offshore. I couldn't have been more wrong as I have learnt that Health & Safety is of the utmost importance within this industry, and have understood some of the control measures in place to prevent such tragedies occurring again.
What has been the best element of the training so far?
The best element of the training is certainly the quality of equipment I get to operate and maintain on a daily basis. The control systems and instruments I am exposed to are exact replicas as to what is present on onshore plants and offshore installations. The automation technology that I'm currently working on is worth over £650,000 alone and boasts 'Smart' Wireless technology.
What has been the most challenging part of it?
The most challenging part of the training has definitely been coping with the workload of the course and the pace at which it travels. Some weeks I will have two or three assessments in one day, along with having to complete a log book on the practical activities I have done over the week.
How do you think your apprenticeship will prepare you for entering the working oil and gas industry?
The Oil & Gas Technical Apprentice Programme combines the necessary theoretical learning with vital hands-on practical skills required in today's oil and gas market in order to fully develop the potential of apprentices and prepare them for the working environment. I will be fully prepared as I have built a strong understanding of various processes undertaken within the industry, and how to operate, fault-find and maintain the equipment that make it possible.
How does being on the industry training scheme help you compared to your peers in terms of progressing your career?
Day-to-day I am taught and tutored by some of the most experienced and knowledgeable current/ex-industry professionals. The practical tasks I take part in are critical to my career progression and the employers I could end up working for after completing the scheme are at the forefront of the industry. The allocation of a sponsor company for two years of worksite-based training will provide me with the foot in the door I will require to secure future employment. These are some of the many reasons why this course has a 93% achievement rate compared to the national average of 65%.
What is your ideal job after you finish your apprenticeship?
My ideal position after completing this apprenticeship is to be a fully qualified Operations Technician based offshore or abroad. I hope to then climb the career ladder and gain experience in the Operations Supervisor role, before then eventually progressing higher to become an Offshore Installation Manager - OIM.
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 & Gas Industry will always require fresh-thinking and new innovations from the next generation of the workforce. I would encourage young people to not be put off by the current economic climate and to instead focus on a particular position they feel their personality and qualifications match.
What advice would you give to young people thinking of entering the industry after you?
I'd say always seek a challenge and definitely look to further yourself - I've been told this industry may end up taking you all over the world so definitely be prepared to work out of your comfort zone! If you are motivated and dedicated enough the experiences that you could encounter within this industry would be second to none.