A young oil industry worker from the Outer Hebrides learned about Modern Apprenticeship opportunities from his careers adviser while still at school in the Nicolson Institute.
Now Ben Smith, from the Isle of Lewis, is an apprentice instrument and control technician working in the North Sea. He was recruited by OPITO, the oil and gas industry’s learning and training organisation.
The 20-year-old joined OPITO straight from school and always knew he wanted to work off-shore but didn’t know much about the different opportunities that were available in the sector.
Information passed on by his Skills Development Scotland careers adviser led to Ben working on the Forties Alpha platform on a three weeks on and three weeks off rota.
“I enjoy the rota, working off-shore and working 12 hour shifts. During the working day I carry out a number of maintenance activities on various instruments and control equipment such as pressure transmitters and control valves,” he explained.
Ben added: “Working on systems which control and measure oil flow which has come from oil fields beneath the sea and which is being transported onshore is definitely one of the most interesting parts of the job.”
The structure of his apprenticeship appealed to Ben because it allowed him to gain “actual working knowledge and practical skills” more than purely theoretical work.
“My friends ask a lot of questions about the industry and about working off-shore as well as questions about apprenticeships, as they see ‘working on the job’ as the best way into the industry.
He added: “I would say apprenticeships are the way forward for someone who has a job in this industry in mind. Also having companies to represent and back you during your apprenticeship helps a lot more than independent education.”
Ben hopes to continue to work for his sponsor company Apache in the Forties field.
The company is currently sponsoring 58 apprentices at different stages of their four year apprenticeships.
Apache North Sea Operations Support Superintendent Ian Close said: “It feels that the benefits Modern Apprenticeships bring to the business include high quality trainees who can rise to senior levels in their operations.”
Ian added: “It is a big commitment but if you are building a business to last it is the right thing to do.”