ABERDEEN, Scotland, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- The Scottish government announced a new fund to help oil and gas workers find jobs in other parts of the energy sector as the market downturn lingers.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the creation of a $17 million transition training fund to support those facing layoffs from the downturn in the North Sea.
"There is no doubt that the conditions facing the North Sea oil and gas sector are extremely challenging, and the downturn in the oil prices is having a very real impact on the workforce, with significant and hugely concerning job losses," she said in a statement.
The fund will support redeployment and retraining for other parts of the energy sector and cover any costs related to licensing for energy work.
Sturgeon last week called on the British government to adopt tax policies that would help stimulate a North Sea energy sector weakening during the market downturn. Lower crude oil prices and maturation of oil and gas fields in the region is forcing cutbacks from major energy companies.
British energy company BP said mid-January it would trim around 600 from its payroll to ensure it remains competitive in the North Sea environment.
"This is not just distressing for those individuals affected," the first minister said. "It has a wider impact on the industry, with the risk that the highly skilled workforce is lost to the sector as they look for opportunities elsewhere."
The Scottish government offered no specific data on employment in the offshore energy sector, though layoffs contrast with official statistics showing private sector employment was up 1 percent from third quarter 2014.
Total production of all hydrocarbons in Scottish maritime territory is on the decline. Data published by the Scottish government in October show production down about 1.7 percent year-on-year. Total production in the United Kingdom offshore was reported as down 2.4 percent.