Partners in developing the Net Zero Generation

INEOS Grangemouth recently announced its bold plans to reach Net Zero by 2045, including a 60% reduction by 2030, having already reduced its carbon footprint at its site by 37% since 2005.

Published Date: 6th October 2021

However, INEOS Grangemouth chairman Andrew Gardner points out that the journey beyond 2030 and onwards to Net Zero will be dependent on the next generation of technicians and engineers, innovators, and entrepreneurs.

Ken Thomson FVC.JPGWe spoke to Dr Ken Thomson OBE, Principal and CEO of Forth Valley College, partners in INEOS’ Modern Apprenticeship programme, about how together the organisations are developing the “Net Zero generation.”

“The first thing is to say that over the many years we have been working together we have learned a lot from each other, and we are extraordinarily strong partners. This is demonstrated by the activities on Fuel Change, the STEM summer school that we ran together and the continuing success of the Modern Apprenticeship programme.”

We were given an enthusiastic tour of the fantastic facilities at FVC’s Falkirk Campus and it was immediately evident that staff and students are filled with purpose and commitment – not just to learning, but also to a complete sense of achievement through learning. Ken went on to explain that what unites INEOS, the FVC staff members and the apprentices themselves is enthusiasm! He remarked on how “INEOS apprentices at FVC stand out and set the standard for peer working” – learning together, listening to each other, and delivering on the FVC ethos of “Making Learning Work”.

There’s a mutual inter-dependence between INEOS and FVC when it comes to training the apprentices – the course curriculum has been co-developed and continues to evolve to embrace new technology and new best practices. INEOS have supplied equipment to the college that is available to all apprentices, to be able to learn safe working practices and to experiment with controlling pilot scale plant equipment that will be a feature of their post-college work lives. Learning in college is seamlessly connecting to learning on-site at INEOS Grangemouth’s facilities. As Ken puts it, “INEOS have always been on the journey with us – it’s not everybody who understands what happens in a college. It is the conversations that we have about developing the core curriculum that sees positive outcomes designed-in to the programme. Both sides meet in the middle and together we create a product that everyone buys into – because it is a product that works, that creates the technicians and engineers of the future. It creates skilled talent ready to take on worthwhile career opportunities.”

We asked Ken for his views on how FVC and INEOS can develop the “Net Zero Generation” – the employees of the future capable of delivering on INEOS Grangemouth’s bold plans to be Net Zero by 2045.

“Realistically we’re in the middle of a journey, one we’ve been on together for 15 years already. It’s a pathway that is trusted, in which both INEOS and FVC value each other and, we value the quality and the potential of the young people that we’re here for…”

Talking to Marcus Plevoets, Operations Director of INEOS’ Grangemouth Chemicals business, he echoed the values that Ken described.

“We rely on our partners in FVC to teach the fundamentals, to nurture the raw talent into skilled employees that are then ready to work on the state-of-the-art equipment here on-site at Grangemouth. The other thing that we would acknowledge and thank FVC for is that they produce qualified technicians who have the desire and drive to continue their learning and development throughout their careers. We see that the apprentices are capable of teaching others around them, sharing best practices and sharing our values when it comes to health, safety and the environment.

This is why we value the work that Ken and his team in Forth Valley College are doing – they’re not simply teaching information, they’re genuinely equipping our Apprentices and the ‘Net Zero Generation’ with the right skills, knowledge and  capabilities to tackle future challenges.”

Back to Ken who talked to the work being done to ensure that there is a learning continuum,
“FVC is tasked with an important responsibility. We are building the workforce for tomorrow and helping develop the leaders of the future. This is the importance of the whole education ecosystem, in which FVC and INEOS are inter-connected to the schools in Grangemouth, Falkirk and Bo-ness. This isn’t about the scope and remit of a training contract; this is an unwritten shared commitment to develop good people with the right skills and the right approach to the rest of their working lives.”

INEOS are regular visitors to FVC and before we left him to resume his busy schedule, we asked Ken for his message to INEOS,
“It is important to continue to invest in our young people. Together we have a huge opportunity to lead in this shared development journey. It’s not an easy challenge to get to Net Zero but together we’re extremely positive that not only can we educate the future workforce, but we can also co-create world ambassadors for active learning right here in Falkirk.”

From the INEOS perspective, we are extremely fortunate to have excellent partners in Forth Valley College; they are partners who share our beliefs and values, and most importantly help shape the behaviours of the INEOS Grangemouth team of the future.

We followed up with several of the younger employees who are participating in the Grangemouth Energy Network; GEN is a recently formed site-wide initiative which is seeking to help shape the Net Zero journey on the INEOS Grangemouth site.  Ryan Stevens and Brendan Craggs are young management graduates who are co-steering the GEN agenda and we spoke with them about their views on being part of the Net Zero Generation.

Apprentices at college.JPG

“I recently acted as a mentor in the Fuel Change initiative, helping a group of technicians put together a high-level project proposal for providing green hydrogen as a fuel source to support Grangemouth. What really stood out was their eagerness to learn and their ability to propose low emission solutions to complex problems in a practical manner!”

“It’s inspiring to see apprentices follow a route that allows them to get direct experience here on the plant. The apprentices I’ve encountered here at Grangemouth are very knowledgeable and highly motivated – I think they’ll play a massive part in driving Grangemouth to net-zero operations.”

We also spoke with Gemma Taylor, who is just going through the process for becoming an NVQ assessor and is herself a former FVC INEOS Apprentice, here’s what she had to say,
“At FVC, whether you’re an INEOS or a Petroineos apprentice, you learn about the whole business; what happens in the refinery, distillation, and polymer production and you’re taught by lecturers who have first-hand knowledge of what we do. As a result, we get to understand everything that we need to be able to do our jobs to the best of our ability.”

Finally, we interviewed a number of the current 4th year apprentices, and Dylan Ferguson who is participating in the Fuel Change Net Zero Grangemouth Challenge and he shared his views on Forth Valley College,  
“FVC at Falkirk is great. It has fantastic facilities but maybe more importantly it’s got great staff members. When you’re there as an INEOS apprentice you get treated with respect and you are expected to treat your peers with respect too. It makes for a great learning environment and it’s so much more grown-up than being at school, you immediately know that this is “for real”, it’s your time and it’s your opportunity to make a difference.”

When we put it to the group as to whether or not they were ready for the Net Zero responsibility that the Chairman of the business, Andrew Gardner, is placing on their shoulders after 2030, there was a uniform response,
“We’re up for it!”

Find out more from our recent press release:

INEOS Grangemouth moves forward on the next phase of its journey to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2045, with further investment in excess of £1 billion.