Scotland the Blog: Oil and trouble: the value of black gold and the hidden seam of skills and productivity

On Thursday 27 February a 62 year old man died falling from a TAQA oil platform in the North Sea. I know TAQA's  HRD Helen Stewart will be distraught, as will all the other professionals  who work to keep the North Sea safe. They will do everything they can to ensure that lessons can be learned. That will be their focus rather than the cabinet cold war sideshow, as both the independence and unionist camps pitched their tents in Aberdeen.

When I worked with the airline pilots union BALPA, advising helicopter pilots in Aberdeen was one of my responsibilities. With my curious nature I like to research the industries I am working with. Had I been doing that now I would be using CIPD's Business Savvy research to develop context savvy about the industry. One of the key operating contexts for the North Sea of course is the politics of the independence debate.

>Sir Ian is often referred to as an oil industry tycoon, with all the connotations of harsh profit driven, cigar twiddling this can conjure up

When you use the first rule of business savvy you seek to understand the oil and gas business models in depth. In this case it's literal. That is deepwater exploration is the key driver.

If you really want to boost your savvy on oil and gas there is a new report out this week. The economics of exploiting far flung oil are expertly explained by Sir Ian Wood 

Sir Ian is often referred to as an oil industry tycoon, with all the connotations of harsh profit driven, cigar twiddling this can conjure up. When you meet Sir Ian he is a genial, thoughtful and caring individual more like a Brahmin than a billionaire. Sir Ian is an interesting character in the independence debate. He sits at the pinnacle of Scotland's most lucrative industry - the one that makes independence even possible to contemplate - but most of his additional  time goes into thinking about how Scotland will build its skilled future.

Sir Ian's Commission on Young People  which CIPD is supporting and which will be attended by leading Scottish HRD's calls for better vocational education and better links between education and work. However we can't just fix the education system. Quality employment and skills are driven by the structure of an economy. My colleague Ben Willmott has been working with the premier skills think tank SKOPE to investigate these issues.

Competing in the global economy is about building highly productive skilled employment, and has been ever thus. However this high road strategy is being impeded by levels of low pay and poor quality work prompting even avowed   free marketeer George Osborne to recommend higher wages. The role of minimum wages is only one part of the equation. The CIPD/ SKOPE report explains how we have to look at the structural problems of our economy, and develop policies which maximise high skills. The Scottish government does understand this and we will be meeting with the newly established Mather Commission. The Commission's remit under ex MP Jim Mather, is to look at those key issues. We will be meeting with the review just after Scottish Conference.

Talking of which if you are not already coming, give some thought to attending Scotland's foremost  HR development opportunity in Glasgow on the 6th and 7th March at the Central Hotel. You will hear from people at the cutting edge of work, as well as those in the engine room of transformation. See you there. We will be kicking off with a reception at the Glasgow City Chambers on the evening of the 5th.

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