50 jobs created as AIS Training opens £2.5m offshore survival centre

New facility at Tyne Tunnel Trading Estate in North Shields received support through the Journal's Let's Grow fund

A total of 50 jobs will be created through the launch of a £2.5m offshore survival centre that will train thousands of workers in the sector on dealing with emergencies at sea.

The new 20,000 sq ft facility in North Tyneside was developed by AIS Training in response to customer demand from the growing energy and renewables industries.

To start with, 25 new roles have been created, with a further 25 employees expected to come on board within 18 months. The expansion will take headcount at AIS more than 100, and, within a year to 18 months, the business expects turnover to grow from roughly £10m to around £25m.

AIS managing director, Paul Stonebanks, said: “We’re delighted to finally unveil our new £2.5m world-class offshore survival centre, which will help to truly cement the North East’s reputation as an accessible and affordable training location for the global oil and gas, wind and maritime industries.

“Nobody likes to think of accidents happening, such as a helicopter crash at sea or a fire on an offshore installation, but it’s vital that offshore workers are prepared for all eventualities.

“More than 6,000 delegates train with us every year in mandatory and optional industry-approved qualifications and competencies for the booming offshore energy market and this new facility enables us to provide both existing and new customers with all the training they need for the offshore careers.”

He added that the business was also preparing to open a new hotel, providing affordable accommodation for offshore workers undertaking training.

Stonebanks, who has considerable experience as an offshore project manager, set up AIS Training in 2007.

Beginning life primarily as a fire protection business, the company has experienced rapid growth, becoming a one-stop-shop for the industry’s training needs.

“The North East is without a shadow of a doubt a leader in the field,” Stonebanks said.

“Previously, people would go to Aberdeen to do this, so we’re providing a solution here in the region.”

The new centre, based at the Tyne Tunnel Trading Estate in North Shields, sits alongside AIS Training’s existing state-of-the-art 120,000 sq ft training village, featuring 11 bespoke

centres, in which delegates can learn all the skills and competencies required for work within the oil and gas, wind, maritime and heavy industry sectors.

Featuring a 4.5m deep environmental pool, a fire training centre, an escape chute designed to meet the standards of Norway’s offshore industry, and a lifeboat and davit system, the facility has been designed to provide an ultra-lifelike setting in which workers will learn survival techniques for scenarios like a helicopter ditching at sea or escaping from a smoke-filled environment.

The centre - which is approved by a number of industry bodies - also includes classrooms, changing facilities, a restaurant and meeting rooms.

It will offer mandatory safety training including BOSIET (Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training), medical training and MIST (Minimum Industry Safety Training), all of which are required by those working offshore.

Its wide range of courses, in fact, mean AIS now offers one of the world’s largest training portfolios for the offshore sector in one location.

To fund the project, it secured £1.1m from HSBCs Tyne and Wear Commercial Centre and £250,000 of Regional Growth Fund money through the Journal’s Let’s Grow fund, backed by BE Group and UNW LLP,

Project manager at BE Group, Simon Allen, said: “We are delighted to have been able to provide a £250,000 Let’s Grow grant from he Regional Growth Fund to help make the survival centre a reality.

“AIS is creating 50 extra jobs linked to the new survival centre, which is a welcome boost to the North Tyneside economy.”

HSBC Tyne and Wear commercial director, Pat Dellow, said: “AIS has developed a comprehensive range of products targeted at the offshore sectors, bringing thousands of people to the North East each year to train.

“This not only provide those individuals with the vital skills needed to work in the offshore environment; it also benefits the wider North East economy.

“We are delighted to support the growth of this business through our £100m SME fund for North East Business and look forward to working with Paul and his team going forward.”

Case studies

Tom Smith (27)

After leaving school at 16 and taking on an apprenticeship, Tom Smith, from North Shields, was well set for a career as an electrician.

“Then things became quite uncertain,” he recalled.

“Everyone was talking about the downturn and the offshore sector was one area in which things were still busy.”

While continuing to work as an electrician in Newcastle, Tom put himself through a number of qualifications to enter the offshore world, most of which were undertaken with AIS.

After building up an impressive CV, then, he took a trip to offshore hotspot Aberdeen and spoke directly to potential employers.

The approach was effective - within a week he had three job offers and was soon starting work with Stork Technical Services.

“Companies are pleased when you’ve done the work and they don’t have to train you up,” Smith said.

“It also shows keenness and willingness.”

He added that AIS had been his “favourite place” to train.

“The managing director, Paul Stonebanks, did everything he could to point me in the right direction,” he said.

Ilya Andreyev (41)

Originally from Russia, Andreyev is proof that, no matter what one’s background, the offshore industry can provide a satisfying - if dramatic - career change.

Indeed, the 41-year-old, who now lives in Newcastle, used to be a professional dancer, running his own dance school until several years ago.

“Then, there was a drop in income and I thought the best decision would be to change completely,” he said.

“I knew nothing about oil and gas at the time, and I’d thought that, even after all the courses I did, it still might not be easy to find a job.”

Adopting a “never give up” philosophy, however, Andreyev is now about to embark on his new career, beginning with work on wind turbines.

“The training at AIS has been very, very good,” he said.

“I feel I’ve made the right decision, and, to be honest, I sometimes wish I’d made it earlier.”

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