Maximising the Impact of Skills in the Oil and Gas Industry

Funded by the Scottish Funding Council for Further and Higher Education, this project is managed jointly by Robert Gordon University and Aberdeen College.

RGU and Aberdeen College LogosThe information on this page will give you some background to the project, as well as information on its work as it progresses.

Please contact us if you would like any further information.

Alison Watson, Project Manager
Tel: 01224 262 201


Scottish Government Policy

The Scottish Government's position regarding skills utilisation is that ‘Scotland has a relatively good record on skills qualifications. However, that has not translated as well as it could in to enhanced economic performance. This is a key message articulated in the Government Economic Strategy and Skills for Scotland, the lifelong skills strategy.

Our nation has the potential to do much more with the skills available to us. If Scotland is to become a more successful country with opportunities for all to flourish through increasing sustainable economic growth, we collectively need to make better use of skills.

Recognising the value of skills to performance, productivity and economic growth through funding and supporting learning is vitally important. However, it is not enough simply to invest in training. Organisations and individuals will only reap the full benefits of skills investment when workplaces fully enable staff to also use their skills effectively. Not realising these benefits is something organisations can ill-afford at the best of times; it is something they especially cannot ignore in current economic circumstances.

Making better use of skills is about:

  • confident, motivated and relevantly skilled individuals who are aware of the skills they possess and know how to best use them in the workplace

working in

  • workplaces that provide meaningful and appropriate encouragement, opportunity and support for employees to use their skills effectively

in order to

  • increase performance and productivity, improve job satisfaction and employee well-being, and stimulate investment, enterprise and innovation.'



As part of the actions taken by the Scottish Government to address this position, and following a national bidding process, the Scottish Funding Council for Further and Higher Education (SFC) awarded £255,000 to Robert Gordon University and to Aberdeen College to undertake this project, focussing the oil and gas sector.

Charlie Deane of Aberdeen College with Shona CormackIndustry partners are involved in the management of the project through the External Advisory Group. They include: OPITO - the Oil and Gas Academy; the Offshore Contractors' Association; Cogent; Semta; and Scottish Enterprise Aberdeen City and Shire. The Group is chaired by Skills Development Scotland.

The project is part of a wider programme of 12 skills utilisation projects across Scotland funded by the SFC and is the only one working with the oil and gas industry specifically.

Robert Gordon University and Aberdeen College are working with a range of local oil and gas companies to improve to the use of skills available in the workplace and to link this to the improvement of business performance in terms of productivity or profit. The lessons learnt from this work will be available to all businesses in the industry.

The project has been designed and developed in collaboration with key industry partners to meet the needs of the oil and gas  sector - effective skills utilisation can bring benefits to companies in the form of reducing costs, increased motivation of staff and lower staff turnover.

The project aims to:

  • help businesses achieve higher productivity by enabling employees to use their skills more effectively
  • identify ways to ensure that employee skills match demand
  • identify employees' potential to exploit their skills to increase the effectiveness of the business

The project started in January 2010 with a research phase, led by David Gibbons-Wood, Director of Aberdeen Business School's Centre for International Labour Market Studies (, to identify the relationship between the effective application of skills and increased productivity. The research process includes a literature review, structured interviews with industry representatives and 1:1 semi-structured interviews with a range of companies.

The literature review and the interviews with industry representatives are complete. At the current time, we are working with 10 specific companies and we are working to increase this to 20. The project is going to hold 1:1 interviews with a key member of staff within these companies to find out about their experiences of skills utilisation, their perception of its relevance to and application in the industry and their perspectives on different proposed interventions and to discuss the suitability of measurement and evaluation.

The outcome of this research will inform the next stage of the project, which involves the development of a series of pilots to be implemented in local businesses, supported by the Project Team. These pilots will aim to:

  • explore how employee skills are matched with the needs of the businesses
  • enable employees to use their skills more effectively
  • help businesses achieve higher productivity and better performance

All of the findings will be reported anonymously, unless express permission is given to use a business' name.

It is hoped that the pilot stage will begin in late summer 2010. The project is due to complete its work by late 2011.


The Steering Group's responsibility is to ensure that the Project meets its aim and objectives within the allotted timescale and the allotted budget.

The members of the Steering Group are:

From Robert Gordon University

From Aberdeen College

  • David Brooks - Sector Manager, Engineering and Construction
  • Charlie Deane - (Data Management and Student Administration)

In Attendance

  • Linda McLeod - Principal Policy Officer, Scottish Funding Council for Further and Higher Education
  • Alison Watson - Project Manager

In addition to the Steering Group, the Project has an External Advisory Group. This Group is made up of key industry representatives. These representatives use their knowledge and experience of the multiple parts of the oil and gas industry to advise the Steering Group and the Project Team.

The members of the Group (with links to their organisations opening in new windows) are:

In attendance:

  • Alison Watson - Project Manager

Papers and Reports

Current Timetable and Work

 The Timetable is reviewed and updated regularly so that it reflects the detail of the Project's work.

At the present time, the main focus of the Project's activity is on the recruitment of companies to participate in the final stage of the research activity.

We aim to recruit 18 companies and we are well on the way to meeting this target. As per the timetable, we ended the active recruitment phase at the end of April 2010 and the research team are now very busy with confirming dates with companies that have expressed an interest in participating and in conducting the actual interviews.

The last meeting of the Steering Group and the External Advisory Group was held jointly on the 27th April. This meeting received the outcome of the research done to date (i.e. the literature review, the structured interviews with industry representatives and other interested parties and the seven 1:1 interviews that had been conducted up to that point.

The interviews are scheduled to complete in good time for the next joint meeting of the Steering Group and the External Advisory Group, which will take place on 18th May. This meeting will receive the outcome of the research and will take this to develop themes for the pilot studies that will form the next phase of the Project.

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Robert Gordon University, Garthdee House, Garthdee Road, Aberdeen, AB10 7QB, Scotland, UK: a Scottish charity, registration No. SC013781