April 23, 2024 • 3 min read

Our people: new skills for new energy

In this article

How our apprenticeship academy in Texas, US is equipping our people with the skills needed for the energy transition.

“The infrastructure needed to achieve net zero is a huge challenge,” admits Kelly Newnham, New Markets and Product Placement for the 1P5 Alliance. “And having a skilled workforce ready to take it on is crucial.

“One project we’re working on that’s building that infrastructure is 1pointFive’s first Direct Air Capture (DAC) facility, STRATOS. It’s currently under construction in Texas. And it’s expected to be the largest DAC facility in the world, designed to capture 500,000 tons of CO2 per year when fully operational mid-2025.”

Projects like STRATOS and future DAC facilities will provide a practical climate solution that hard to decarbonize industries can use to help address their emissions and bring us closer to reaching net zero goals.

The race is on to decarbonize industries and drastically lower emissions. And so the pace and scale needed to get projects like STRATOS operational is faster and bigger than we’ve ever seen before.

But to build these facilities we need skilled and qualified tradespeople.

Training the workforce of the future

“We need to increase our headcount working on these projects and shape a fully trained workforce that can keep the pace,” says Newnham. “This, along with the chance of federal funding from the US Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Act drove our decision to establish the Worley Apprenticeship Academy in June 2023.”

The program trains people working on the 1PointFive STRATOS project for family-supporting craft construction careers. It takes two to four years and once complete, apprentices become fully qualified in their area of expertise.

“Right now, we have an over 700-strong workforce on the project. Of that, 200 are apprentices. And that number is growing month by month,” says Newnham.

“Apprentices on the program secure a full time job from their first day. They get a tuition-free technical education based on National Center for Construction Education and Research curriculum and materials. All classroom time is included as part of the workday and apprentices can advance as key training milestones are met.”

The curriculum includes 12 craft occupational learning tracks, each with career potential. Our current learning tracks are boilermaker, carpenter, construction laborer, electrician, form carpenter, millwright, pipefitter, reinforcing metal rod buster, scaffolder, structural steel ironworker, surveyor and welder.

“All of these trades are essential for projects like STRATOS. And will be for generations to come,” says Newnham.

A learning path to a rewarding career

“Our apprentices are hired at all levels of experience. We have people who have joined us straight from school and we have people who have previous construction experience but are looking to upskill and gain the qualifications to prove it,” says Newnham.

Brady Spruill is a pipefitter with 13 years’ experience in the construction industry.

“I knew I could do most aspects of the job, but I never had the credentials, even though I have spent most of my career in the oil and gas industry,” says the US Air Force veteran who served in Afghanistan.

“Being able to work and get an education at the same time has been so worthwhile. I started the program in July 2023 and I’ve already seen career progression opportunities and been promoted to foreman,” says Spruill.

Spruill and his peers are taught by highly skilled professionals. One of our instructors is Johnny Buller, who has 50 years of construction experience and started his career as an apprentice himself.

“The main thing I am trying to instill is that you must always be willing to learn,” says Buller. “When you stop learning, you may as well stop working.”

“I’m still learning. And it’s great to be able to pass on my knowledge and watch my students be part of a project that’s delivering sustainable change.”

“We’re continuously expanding our team and encourage anyone who’s interested in a construction career in the US to get in touch with us,” says Newnham. “Current vacancies are available on our careers site.”

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