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The energy industry was an early advocate of the digital transformation, particularly in the oil and gas sector with projects often stretching into the $10s of millions.

From the first artificial intelligence platform, to big data increasing outputs from solar energy; significant investment is now being made to embrace the digital future across the board, and this extends to training.

Following the oil price downturn in 2015, major oil and gas organisations made significant reductions in both recruitment and training. Increasing scrutiny was placed on optimisation and an emphasis was placed on a skilled, highly competent, ‘lean’ workforce.

This presented challenges of its own and contributed to a significant loss of skilled middle career expertise and knowledge within the industry, which would have usually trained the next generation of energy scientists.

Energy industry engineers looking at wind turbines

As training providers adapted to these new limitations and operating in a ‘leaner for longer’ market, a new demand materialised alongside with increasing urgency. In the past five years, the transition to a lower carbon future has seen rapid acceleration, changing the skill requirements needed in the sector.

A recent OPITOS’s Skill Landscape report estimated that some 80% of the current workforce would still be in the industry by 2025. The investment required to retain these skills, upskill and reskill represents a substantial opportunity as the industry acclimatises to these new technologies.

The report also concludes that the way in which the workforce wants to learn and develop new skills has changed. With the introduction of virtual and augmented reality, simulation and situational analysis, delivered in short, structured ‘bite-sized’ learnings, are now the preferred learning methods.

Young, tech-savvy workers have not always been attracted to a career in the energy industry, but the idea of a more digital-focused working environment and the prospect of developing digital skills can be a strong incentive to workers.

The 2018 Global Energy Talent Index report revealed how digitisation can help increase worker satisfaction and retention, with workers more eager to upskill into new roles created through digitisation. Training and development opportunities were cited as one of the biggest drivers of satisfaction.

It’s under these conditions we find ourselves operating today, with an uncertain market and a diverse set of client needs. To meet these challenges and make the most of the opportunities presented, training providers must also adopt a digitisation strategy.

Through interactive and engaging e-learning, customers are offered access to the latest content and most up-to-date procedures or technologies at multiple locations, instantaneously.

Providing clients with skills gap analysis, based on their current knowledge base, provides an opportunity to strategise their development needs, make better use of their current resources and identify shortages in skills that will be needed for the future.

And integrating data analytics with their existing systems can optimise and improve their operational efficiency, personalising the services offered and proactivity anticipating clients needs.

By embracing the digital transformation in energy, training becomes a crucial part of business’s development plan, casting aside the reactive model of the past an embracing a proactive and solution-focused ethos, enabling organisations to be ready for the challenges ahead.

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Tomos Davies is head of technology and innovation at RPS Energy Training whose Totara Learn platform provides both e-learning and classroom-based training for energy organisations internationally.