Training helps Ricki switch careers from oil to wind power

Ricki Western loves being out at sea keeping the nation’s energy flowing.

But when he was made redundant from an oil industry jack up rig it put a question mark over his future.

Now the Offshore Wind Skills Centre has given him a new direction and career inspecting wind turbines.

He was part of a transition course helping people switch from similar industries into the offshore wind energy sector industry.

It provided him with a range of qualifications including working at height, manual handling, fire awareness, sea survival, first aid, working in confined spaces and cranage slinger-banksman skills along with tests proving his fitness.

Ricki, a 31-year-old father-of-two young children from Gorleston near Great Yarmouth, said “The course was brilliant. It’s been a great opportunity for me to climb the ladder. Anyone that completes this course has a fantastic future.”

He began his working life with a decade as a plumbing and heating engineer before switching to the rather larger pipework in the oil and gas industry.

“I wanted a new challenge and got a job helping pipefitters in a dockyard at Invergordon in Scotland – working on 10-12in steel pipes.

“When the project ended I got my safety and helicopter survival training and worked on the Galaxy III jack up rig in the Buzzard oil field in the North Sea as a roustabout and roughneck labourer.

“I loved the outdoor life, being out in the elements and the scale of the equipment. But I was made redundant in the oil and gas industry downturn – so was not sure about my future and went back to plumbing. “

But a sponsored course at the Offshore Wind Skills Centre armed him with qualifications to take his experience and skills into offshore wind.

He is now an inspection technician with 3sun, and will be climbing ladders armed with a tablet computer to check offshore turbines from top to toe looking for faults and problems.

“We can do minor repairs, but have to report bigger ones for a team to visit and fix,” he added.

Ricki says there are similarities and differences between oil and gas and wind.

“The weather is the same, and while you are ‘indoors’ some of the time in a turbine tower, you also have to go outside to do inspections, cranage and minor repairs. I love it.”