Investing in our energy future

Thursday 06 October 2022

Donella Beaton, Vice Principal Economic Development
Writing for the Press and Journal, Vice Principal for Economic Development, Donella Beaton, highlights how RGU is investing in the North East's energy future and sharing it's expertise overseas and at home.

Maintaining international business relationships with no travel over the last two years has been challenging for all and now, as borders open, the true strength of these relationships is being tested. 

Aberdeen has a long-established role as a leader in the energy sector but to future-proof the North East’s international profile, we need to continue to share our expertise and support energy sectors overseas, as well as on our doorstep.

To this end, I was delighted to hear that our two Japanese partners, Kobe City Government and the philanthropic, Nippon Foundation, wanted to return for face-to-face student programmes in Aberdeen as soon as they had permission to travel – and it was great to welcome these students here last month.

RGU has hosted four programmes for Kobe City Government, where students from different disciplines and higher education institutions in Kobe come together as future leaders to consider offshore energy opportunities for the Port.   

This year we hosted our fifth Nippon Foundation Ocean Innovation Consortium (NFOIC) Offshore Energy Summer School for top Japanese engineering students. The Summer Schools were developed on the back of the late Prime Minister Abe’s decree in 2015 that Japan needed 10,000 new offshore engineers by 2030 to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by its extensive coastline and waters. RGU was the first university in the world to host a programme for the NFOIC, and is still the only one in the UK to do so.

I had the honour of speaking at the NFOIC launch symposium in Tokyo in 2016. The question that surprised me was one, not asked by a senior academic or executive, but by a young person who said, “How do I tell my parents that I would like to be an offshore engineer”? I couldn’t comprehend the challenge, given Japan’s ports, extensive waters, 30,000km of coastline, and therefore significant opportunity for marine development. But now we face similar questions from our own Scottish students.

As UK and Scottish governments and companies debate our energy future, to invest or not to invest, where to host Freeports, how many people will be needed and when, and what a just transition actually means, our young people are turning away from offshore engineering, considering it a career of the past rather than an exciting opportunity for their future. 

The RGU report, “Making the Switch” published earlier this year, talked about a “Goldilocks Zone”, the critical period of retaining the existing energy workforce to be ready for future developments. That uncertainty is also affecting our young people, who in addition to being critical to the future well-being of the North of Scotland, could lead the way in delivering energy security for the nation. A solid engineering qualification with associated work experience is relevant for whatever the future energy mix is and we need to ensure that the next generation of students know that and that there will be jobs for them.

Our Japanese partners understand this value, hence our ongoing relationship. I hope I will have the opportunity to do greater justice to the student in Tokyo’s question another time – and I hope we can work together to do the same for the young people here in Aberdeen.

Cookie Consent