Capability development for the energy sector in 2022 and beyond

There has been a fundamental change in the nature of work in the energy sector, with increased digitalisation and energy transition developments in particular. As a result, conventional approaches to providing learning and building workforce capabilities simply cannot continue. Instead, adapting energy training solutions to a new environment – that is more agile, flexible, streamlined and accessible – is becoming vital for effective capability development. The COVID-19 pandemic has only highlighted this urgency and has accelerated these developments.

16 Jan 2022

Even the most hard-lined sceptics in the energy industry will admit that something changed (perhaps irrevocably) when the pandemic set in. The transition to more renewable solutions over the last two years had already made the need for suitably targeted learning solutions more urgent. Once Covid-19 emerged and brought in-person training to a halt, the need for an even quicker transformation in learning solutions was unquestionable.

We have developed deep expertise in energy consulting and training over several decades. We understand how important it is to nurture a learning environment that is more agile, responsive to disruption, more integrated with real-time activities and presented in a better learning experience, at a reduced cost. Energy professionals today expect more tangible outcomes from a quality learning provider. If we were to break down how this might be achieved, the following aspects would be key:

  • Course material needs to be more modular, flexible and learner-centric
  • Training providers need to rapidly increase virtualisation of courses and blended learning environments where appropriate
  • Partnerships and collaboration between industry and academia need to accelerate

Let’s explore each of these in a little more detail.

Flexibility in core training material

At RPS, we’ve been developing initiatives in direct response to the global energy transition. As major national and international energy companies diversify their portfolio into more renewable energy sources, our training solutions are increasingly focused on the areas that will require development of new skills. We currently offer training in subsurface technical expertise and are also actively developing learning for Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS), offshore wind, and geothermal, as well as Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG). Within our learning environments, we focus on cross-disciplinary themes between more traditional oil and gas related course material and renewable energy sector requirements.

We’ve also adapted our approach to how we provide each of our training solutions. We look at our training portfolio not as a series of courses but as an ecosystem of learning resources. Modular learning –breaking larger, detailed resources into smaller chunks of well-packaged information with more specific and defined learning outcomes – allows for more flexibility for the individual learner. Virtualisation of learning resources is key to this approach, which includes the integration of 3D geological outcrop model visualisation into our learning resource modules. Another advantage is that a more modular format of courses aligns with specific training objectives that we can develop for our clients. This can make a greater impact on their workforce, promoting retention of relevant information and plugging a targeted set of skill shortages.

A blended approach to learning

Consider the paradigm shift in the last couple of years when it comes to how energy training delivery happens, compared to even a decade ago. The conventional wisdom was always that one couldn’t replace face-to-face sessions with subject matter experts (SMEs) effectively, particularly in subsurface subjects like geoscience and petroleum engineering. If an organisation needed to train their workforce, they would send their learners into classrooms to study theory and might combine that with some practical knowledge gained.

However, in the last 18 months or so, there has been an acceptance that if online learning modules are constructed well, are interactive and designed with instructional care, they can be incredibly effective. E-learning, in particular, can be a great tool for foundational knowledge across a range of subject areas and give participants an opportunity for self-paced learning and self-assessment. These online learning solutions can be blended with workshops conducted in classrooms and in the field to encourage teamwork and gets learners to think about workflow development as part of a larger team.

The Learning Hub

At RPS, we’ve been ahead of this school of thought for some time and have prioritised this blended learning approach for energy training across our portfolio. A key unifying element is the RPS Learning Hub, our bespoke online learning platform where participants can access and manage all their learning resources and information. The Learning Hub plays host to our webinar delivery courses as well as our e-learning modules. Course pages provide access to course materials, live event details, pre and post-course resources and a variety of interactive media, including quizzes, assessments, completion tracking, as well as opportunities for social learning and collaborative interactions.

We’ve also ensured that course materials are available to our learners when they need them most. Notes and learning materials are searchable and available in a personal digital library of learning on the Learning Hub dashboard.

Put simply, we would define a blended approach as striking the right balance between classroom sessions, e-learning, webinars and fieldwork, packaged with care and delivered by subject matter experts with decades of experience in energy training.

Partnerships and collaboration between industry and academia

With rapidly changing capability requirements due to digitalisation and the energy transition, there has never been a greater need for academia and energy industry specialists to come together to collectively shape the training portfolio.

There is an increasing need for reskilling and upskilling for a future-proof workforce while leveraging the collective expertise of subject matter experts and specialised academics. A well-rounded understanding of theory and the outcomes of the latest research, applied in-field with support from industry experts, is what any modern learner needs to keep their knowledge and skill levels up-to-date. This continued professional development helps organisations fill vital gaps in skills and plan just how they would like to build their workforce to align with the diversification of their business strategy.

At RPS, we’re already pursuing this collaborative approach to great effect. We are in fact, one of only a handful of training organisations that work within the energy industry, whilst also collaborating with industry experts and the wider academic community.

A great example of this is our involvement with the UK Centre for Masters Training in Energy Transition (UK CMT), which brings together the UK’s premier higher education institutes with world-renowned geoscience industry experts and promotes access to the right resources and training for the next generation of geoscientists and engineers.

Earlier this month, we also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the International Geothermal Association (IGA) to build a modern, flexible Global Geothermal Learning curriculum. As an important pillar of the energy transition, renewable energy is an area where increased academic and industry collaboration can only benefit the sector. A greater focus on training in this area will help the industry make a pivot towards a more sustainable energy future.

MOU signing with RPS and IGA

We like the phrase ‘Retrain to retain’ and it’s never been more valid as a statement today, as we witness learners shift their focus or change their career paths.

With decades of experience in these areas, we feel confident that RPS is in a unique position of strength to build and develop capability in the global energy sector, in order to meet these challenges. Our intuitive and adaptable approach to training, through our sophisticated Learning Hub, allows users to personalise their training experience, unlike other training providers. The legacy of our Nautilus Training Alliance (NTA) program, delivered by industry-recognised subject matter experts, is also constantly evolving with further energy portfolio diversification.

While the challenges of that diversification cannot be understated, we’re confident that the collaborative development of future training solutions in our industry looks bright.

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