Last year the government committed £80m of public funding to develop new public-private partnership “national colleges” in five key growth areas of the UK economy:
- High speed rail
- Nuclear power
- Digital skills
- Creative and cultural industries
- Onshore oil and gas
Alongside nuclear power, the National College for Onshore Oil and Gas (aka the fracking college) was meant to train the skilled engineers and technicians to develop a thriving new onshore hydrocarbon energy sector to power the UK economy into the 2030s and beyond. However, according to Alix Robertson at FE Week the national fracking college is in trouble because the UK fracking industry itself has failed to take off:
“Alarm bells first sounded when the college failed to appear on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers in March, and representatives have admitted in response that ‘with the industry still developing and its requirements for skills becoming clearer, NCOOG has not yet been launched’.”
Given the claims made by the fracking industry and the support offered by the UK government, we might be forgiven for now asking; “Where is this shale gas future of which you speak?” The reality, of course, is that with world oil prices (which gas prices follow) stubbornly stuck below $50 per barrel, fracking companies can make more money by leaving the gas in the ground than they could hope to make by actually drilling more wells – which is why only a handful of fracking tests are currently going ahead… just enough to keep gullible investors interested.
With the world awash with hydrocarbons that (for the moment at least) consumers cannot afford and do not want, UK fracking is simply not going to take off any time soon. Little wonder then that the industry has put the brakes on the national college that was intended to supply it with the next generation of skilled workers.