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This blog was written by Donella Beaton, Vice Principal, Economic Development at Robert Gordon University. RGU are an Associate Sponsor of the 2022 Annual Lecture. 

The national Covid outlook is thankfully improving, but, for most, the economic future is still far from certain. Concerns over financial, supply and market stability and the changing nature of work are felt by both the individual and the employer.

For our region, add in the impact of energy transition and addressing energy security and the ripples start with each company and travel across the supply chain to all areas of society.

The magnitude of the challenge is thankfully only surpassed by the scale of the potential which, with the right investment and a joined-up response, will not only deal with that nebulous future but also provide some certainty for today.  There are no guarantees however as despite everything this region has going for it, competition will be fierce. A team approach with a clear vision, timely investment and a steady nerve will be critical.

At RGU, we purposefully take an industry-informed approach when planning future developments as demand-led does not give the necessary horizon that energy transition and a post-pandemic world need.

For example, the RGU Energy Transition Institute has led nationally on modelling workforce and skills transferability from oil and gas to other energies. In 2021, it published the UK Offshore Energy Workforce Transferability Review, and the team are currently working on a Regional Review, to be published in May.

The capabilities of individuals in the industry will be critical to a successful transition, with many only requiring short programmes to address specific gaps in knowledge and context – programmes currently under development at RGU.

Over 1200 people across different sectors will undertake short courses with the University this year and 200 more have joined Graduate Apprenticeship programmes enabling them to continue to live in their communities and earn while they learn.

The University is also supporting people to start their own business. With Scottish Government funding, RGU’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group is currently delivering a regional Start Up Accelerator Programme to 36 entrepreneurial ventures, selected from over 200 applicants, illustrating significant regional demand and ambition.

Industry and society of course also still need well-rounded graduates and increasingly these graduates are also enterprising, digital-literate and have the skills and resilience to deal effectively with an uncertain world.  At RGU, we are committed to providing our students with the opportunity to develop these attributes, thereby maximising their prospects for employment. Of critical importance to this are work placements. The University is hugely grateful to employers who provide students with these opportunities – and we hope they too gain from the experience.

This broad approach to skills – well-informed upskilling courses, work-based learning, entrepreneurship programmes and student development is critical if we are to meet the needs of the individual and society – to get close to a just transition, create true equality of opportunity and generate the skills, productivity and enterprise that Scotland needs.