An ex-army officer has launched a pioneering northeast initiative aimed at smoothing the path for former military personnel looking to transfer their skills into the energy industry.
Having made the move himself, Magnus Jeffrey, project engineer for Senergy Development Solutions (SDS), set up the Network Aberdeen to help other former service interested in making a similar transition.
Magnu, formed the group as a means of providing leavers with the information and contacts they need to get their foot in the door and learn how to adapt their knowledge to an industry crying out for skilled staff.
Magnus joined SDS - a subsidiary of leading global energy services company, Senergy - after meeting some of the company’s representatives at Offshore Europe in Aberdeen in 2011.
Although Magnus felt that he might have lacked the technical experience for a career change to the energy industry, it transpired that the nine years he spent operating in some of the most demanding conditions and environments meant he had the ideal skills for taking on a role with Senergy.
He said, “The hardest thing is definitely that initial step. A lot of people leave the services without relevant industry qualifications, but they often have the knowledge and skills needed, as well as broader experience garnered from operational military work.
“The oil and gas industry is a dynamic and exciting industry in which to work, and is in many ways similar to the military. Critically, it has job opportunities so will naturally be a focus for service leavers. However, many of these individuals struggle to get past the initial application stage. Their applications often fall foul of the automated systems as it is difficult to relay their appropriate skills and expertise on paper. If the same individual is able to meet with someone and given the opportunity to explain what they can offer, the outcome can be very positive for both parties.”
SDS has experienced rapid growth due to increasing demand for its niche services in oil and gas facilities engineering and total project delivery as well as developing the business through providing a fully integrated service alongside other established Senergy business lines in subsurface and wells.
Recognizing the value of the transferable knowledge held by those with similar military backgrounds, SDS has also recently recruited another former U.K. infantryman, Andy Wilson, and ex-Swedish naval officer, Erik Bergman. Andy received advice from past military members now working in the sector before moving into the industry whilst Erik decided to make his move after meeting Rob Fisher, head of field development at SDS, at an offshore survival training course.
Magnus set up The Network Aberdeen in November 2011 because he realized that there may be many more people without the contacts to help them take their first steps. The independent organization is attempting to gain charitable status and has already been successful in helping more than 10 people into work – more than one person per meeting thus far.
The Network Aberdeen’s aims are to be a focal point for service leavers in the North-east of Scotland, an accessible source of service leavers for employers and an advocate of the skills, experience and dynamism service leavers can bring to civilian employment.
In addition to supporting former military staff, The Network Aberdeen is also providing an increasing level of support to those leaving other uniformed services, including the police and fire brigade.
Support for the organization has also gathered momentum after Andy used the business social network LinkedIn to contact ex-servicemen and women already working in the energy industry.
“We had our first meeting just over a year ago and it seems to be going from strength to strength,” said Magnus. “Everyone we have approached has been happy to play their part, and the ongoing support of those in the Network is fundamental to the group. Many of those former military staff, who are already in the industry, have seen it as a way of returning the help they received during their career transition.
“It is about getting people into the room to network. Those new to the industry don’t always know the right place to look, and we can help by introducing them to people and setting up meetings. We firmly believe in creating opportunities and training in, rather than selecting out.
“With thousands of British military personnel facing redundancy and the U.K. oil and gas sector attempting to address a potentially crippling shortage of workers, there are opportunities for those leaving the armed forces to transfer skills and build a new career in a rewarding industry.”
Recent announcements by the U.K. Government have meant 26,000 troops over 250 career fields are eligible for redundancy. In comparison, industry body Subsea U.K. estimates 10,000 people will be needed in its sector alone over the next 12 months.
To address this, a growing number of energy companies are looking to realize the skills which are potentially already available in those leaving the forces. The Network Aberdeen is assisting in this by acting as an independent focal point to advise and send service leavers in the direction to take advantage of such opportunities.
Meetings are held every six to eight weeks and allow members to network, socialize and share experiences of employment transition and the job market. Guest industry speakers sharing their experiences and views have featured at several of the gatherings.
Magnus added, “It can be very difficult leaving a career like the military; it is a life change rather than just changing job. Having a support group makes that process a bit easier and hopefully expedites a successful transition. Those hit by the recent redundancies may find the focus provided by such a Network even more beneficial as they react to rapid change.”
Mr. Fisher said, “One of the biggest challenges facing the energy industry is finding the right people. Senergy welcomes people from a wide range of backgrounds and we recognize the value and experience people who have military backgrounds can bring.
“Magnus, Andy and Erik are all playing an important role within SDS and the recruitment of former forces personnel is something we will continue to pursue.
“The Network Aberdeen is a first-class way to support and benefit both military leavers and the energy industry. Anything which can help to bring skilled people into our sector is to be commended. As a company we wish the organization every success.”