The OGUK Diversity & Inclusion Survey report was released earlier in 2021, not only providing the industry with a snapshot into its current D&I performance but also providing it with an invaluable baseline from which all future D&I improvements can be made. One key finding from the report highlighted the need for improved diversity & inclusion in small and medium-sized enterprises (SME’s). It said that SME companies are less likely than operators and larger supply chain companies to have a strong D&I culture, a fundamental aspect to the success of D&I initiatives.
Norwell EDGE (formerly part of Norwell Engineering) has been delivering high quality eLearning to the oil and gas industry since 2018. The technology company based in Aberdeen has had diversity and inclusion at the heart of their business from the very start; their founding aim being to make quality training affordable and accessible to everyone no matter their background, ethnicity or job title. We were delighted to catch up with Director, Mike Adams to talk about the journey they have had.
Mike explained that in 2017, and at the early stages of building their learning platform, eLearning acceptance across the industry was very low. Norwell EDGE decided to cast their net wide and engaged with around 3500 users from around the world to help them conduct testing. A key strategy was to target a group that expected sophisticated eLearning to be delivered, so a large part of their testing group was engineering students due to graduate in 2018. The testing phase built a loyal base who still benefit from the platform now even if they are not customers – crucially many have joined or stayed in the oil and gas industry. This strategy of casting the net wide during testing phases has continued during the further development of software and by working with a wide selection of users to develop the platform EDGE has ensured also that people get the most out of their learning by delivering a user experience that is effective and easy, and guided by direct feedback from learners around the world. Mike explained that not only did this make good business sense in terms of helping them to build their brand but also it helped them to understand their market and how to build relationships/how best to do business.
EDGE’s eLearning platform now has both corporate and individual users (roughly 25% and 75% respectively) and they have around 2,000 active learners at any one time. Mike explained that their key aim has been to improve opportunities for those who have previously found training to be inaccessible either due to factors such cost, their geographic location or existing education. Many of the individuals accessing the platform are looking to enter the industry from a less skilled role. There has been a notable increase in users during the pandemic.
‘Our philosophy from the outset has been to shake up the training industry to ensure access is made easier and more affordable to all. We wanted to improve what was already there and really have an impact on education and opportunity’.
It is important for EDGE to do business that is rewarding for them so community engagement during projects is also crucial. Large parts of EDGE’s business are based in Africa, Tanzania, and Nigeria – ‘it’s not only about understanding your market but caring about your market’, Mike explained. They are also encouraging their partner organisations to take the same approach and encouraging them to do better things in the areas where they are doing business.
EDGE employ a reasonably small workforce (less than 20) worldwide. Mike described the management style of the company as ‘community style’. He explained that when a new project comes up, it is important to think about who is best to be involved in a project and give the relevant people the chance to contribute. Equally he likes to ask the team which opportunities they’d like to be involved in and what they would find rewarding.
‘Empowering your employees and giving them ownership is critical to inclusion’.
Mike explained that EDGE are involved in lots of other activities with an aim to have a longer-term impact on D&I in the industry, placing a particular focus on the next generation. Encouraging young people into the industry is critical to the sustainability of their future and many of EDGE’s initiatives involve working directly with universities in sponsoring prizes and providing access to study material for competitions, where often a license to the platform is awarded as a prize. Examples of this are the ‘Virtual Rig Games’ which they sponsor for the University of Texas and an annual essay contest for all university students in Tanzania.
Norwell EDGE present at Uganda SPE Conference 2018
In 2020, EDGE worked with AFBE-UK to build a game for Primary School children called ‘Spot the Engineer’. Whilst this was more focused on engineering than oil and gas specifically, the purpose was essentially to show the next generation the diversity that currently exists within engineering by using gaming technology. There were eight levels in the game and the aim was to ‘surprise’ pupils that someone they perhaps knew for a different reason (for example a celebrity) was an engineer. AFBE-UK had previously tried to create this themselves however the expertise provided by EDGE really increased the engagement of the children by the use of modern technology. This was an example of a great partnership and EDGE was extremely proud to be involved in this.
EDGE recognises that D&I is no longer ‘a nice to have’ for the energy sector and through its initiatives to make training accessible to all is proud to support the elimination of the skills gap, allowing a diverse and vibrant workforce to thrive.