Connected Competence

Connected Competence: Interview with Lynsey Benson, Senior Project Manager, ECITB

Can you tell us about yourself?

I’m a Senior Project Manager for the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) leading on the Connected Competence project. Having worked in the skills landscape for over 17 years, mainly supporting organisations in the Oil & Gas Industry, and latterly within the Energy & Utilities sectors, I’m well placed to understand the opportunities and challenges of delivering an industry-led, collaborative project aimed at recognising and assuring a standard approach to competence.

Which companies are involved with Connect Competence?

The founding member companies for Connected Competence consist of Aker Solutions, Bilfinger Salamis, Petrofac, Stork, Wood and Worley. Their respective Managing Directors form part of the Connected Competence (Oil & Gas) Council alongside Operator representatives, OGUK, OGA, Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Government. To ensure a truly collaborative approach, the founding members are also part of a ‘Delivery Group’ which ensures consistency and alignment between the major contractors in Oil & Gas. Can you tell us about Connected Competence and specifically the benefits to the workforce of OCA member companies? In its simplest form Connected Competence is the standardisation of (base) technical competence across an Industry recognised framework. It means that if you are employed or self-employed in a site-based craft or technician role, you can demonstrate your ongoing competence to employers by attending a testing day once a year, carry your competence certificates with you and employers will have visibility of your successful validations. The collaborative approach means the worker continues their current cycle regardless of changing employer as the ‘new’ employer accepts the competence already demonstrated with the ‘previous’ employer.

What was happening previously was candidates were spending significant amounts of their downtime attending the same training courses so that their new employer could obtain the certificate. All contractors had different requirements for the same roles which was confusing to those working within the sector, let alone new entrants seeking employment. In addition, attending a training course doesn’t demonstrate current competence. With Connected Competence individuals will receive training only if it is required. Where the testing does identify a gap in trade competence it promotes targeted development plans rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Why does this matter to an employee or contractor working for an OCA member company?

It’s great recognition for the employee knowing they are proving their technical ability and also having the reassurance that their co-workers around them are also demonstrating competence and supporting the safety agenda. As all employers are adopting the same base level standard, workers can have a clear understanding of what is expected from them in performing their role.

What is Connected Competence trying to achieve?

First and foremost is assuring the ongoing competence of the workers and raising the level of competence to a base standard to help ensure everyone is working in a safe, skilled and productive manner. Secondly to help the seamless transfer of workers between contractors within the Oil & Gas sector particularly in times of peak demands whereby quicker mobilisation and streamlined onboarding processes are needed. This also helps to achieve cost efficiencies and reduce unnecessary ‘wastage’. And thirdly, Connected Competence focuses on technical competence only and by doing so can carry across other Engineering Construction and Energy sectors such as onshore Process industries, Nuclear and Renewables and encourages labour movement across the sectors.

What surprised you the most when introducing this initiative?

The collaborative efforts and commitment between contracting companies has been most commendable. From what was initially seen as always something of a ‘competitive edge’, the standardisation of competence has seen the unnecessary gold plating of skills stripped down to a unified ‘what do we require of our workers to remain safe, productive and deliver quality outputs’. This alliance helps to remove the over specification of skills from operators and contractors and reintroduces the moral principle that skills should not be used as competitive bargaining tools. Some would say that many others have done this kind of work before, what is different about Connected Competence? It is the ongoing currency of competence assurance that the model delivers on. When speaking to most industry leaders in the past I’ve always asked them “what’s the one thing that keeps you awake at night?” and the majority of the answers are “ensuring a competent workforce”. This model tests current competence on a regular basis. Also the alliance between the member companies (which we hope to expand significantly across the sector and further afield) has not been seen on this scale before, and most of these companies have interests in other sectors such as renewables where the model can help identify skills transfers across their operating units.

What can OCA members companies, employees and contractors do to support or get involved with Connected Competence? If you are currently employed, speak to your HR team about enrolling onto the cycle of tests. At the moment, ECITB is also funding the enrolment of the temporary / transient workers onto the cycle ahead of a challenging shutdown period next year and most of these workers will have already received a communication from one or more of the Connected Competence companies. Information is also on the website

How do companies, trade union, employee reps or any worker find out more?

There is a fact sheet and further information on the webpage, each of the member companies also have Connected Competence focal points or alternatively I would be happy to speak to anyone interested in learning more about the programme – See what your colleagues say about Connected Competence here.