A former soldier has swapped foreign battlefields for the oil and gas industry, highlighting the vital role transferrable skills can play in addressing talent shortages within the energy sector.
Duncan Harwood spent five years in the armed forces, leading soldiers on tours of Iraq and Northern Ireland, along with managing construction sites in the Falkland Islands. The 32-year-old has now joined Aberdeen-headquartered independent energy consultancy ADIL as a subsea project engineer.
He believes many of his former colleagues could follow suit, with the recent revelation by the UK Government that it is reducing defence spending by cutting Army personnel from 102,000 to 82,000 over the next five years.
With the energy sector currently suffering from a global skills shortage, oil and gas firms are increasingly recognising the benefits of hiring and cross-training ex-military servicemen and women who have a broad range of skills and international experiences.
Mr Harwood is a prime example of this. Before carrying out army officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, he spent four years at Durham University studying engineering. Despite a promising career in the Army, his long-term goal of joining the oil and gas industry won through and, following a stint at Cranfield University, he joined the team at ADIL.
He said: “While I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Army, I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in the energy sector.
“I became a commercial diver and studied for an MSc in ocean and offshore technology to develop my technical knowledge. While working as a diver, I began researching jobs in Aberdeen. ADIL invited me for an interview at its Aberdeen headquarters.
“My time in the Army has provided me with a number of skills widely sought by the oil and gas industry. I was able to develop my management and leadership skills, as well as the ability to prioritise tasks and make quick, accurate decisions while under pressure. I am very fortunate that ADIL values these qualities so highly.”
The company has now agreed to sponsor Mr Harwood while he studies for an MBA in oil and gas management at Robert Gordon University.
Mr Harwood added: “The army is about to undergo an enormous period of change, losing some 20,000 personnel. These people all have valuable transferable skills, with the tendency to be results-orientated individuals who have a dedicated, can-do attitude.
“Among them will be chartered engineers, electricians, draughtsmen, fabricators, mechanics, logisticians, health and safety advisors and many other highly qualified individuals, keen to take on a challenging second career in the oil and gas industry. With appropriate re-training they will be able to put their vast experience to very good use in the energy sector.”
ADIL has become an advocate for encouraging young talent, also sponsoring the University of Aberdeen’s TAU Racing team for the last three years, while supporting renewable energy student, Cara Heller, in her studies.
ADIL’s technical director, Tim Sibley, said: “The demographic time-bomb is well-documented in our industry, together with the difficulties that young people face trying to get their foot on the employment ladder.
“For ADIL’s long-term growth plans, we have to recruit and train the next generation of engineers and managers, so our continued support of Duncan and those like him is a conscious policy to achieve that goal. We believe that, in providing these opportunities, we will engender a mutual loyalty to the benefit of all parties, while creating our managers of the future.”
Press Release, August 2, 2012