US market entry heralds growth opportunities for Polaris Learning

A Scottish training firm has announced a joint venture with a US-based energy company as its plans for international growth heat up.

Polaris Learning will work together with Safety Management Systems (SMS), part of Acadian Companies, to deliver a range of training courses to onshore and offshore workers in the US oil and gas industry, which will help the company secure a vital foothold in the lucrative American market and allow the business to support the global operations of existing North Sea clients.

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Polaris Learning has been supported throughout this international expansion by Scottish Development International (SDI), which has provided business and marketing strategy support as well as advice on exporting services.

SMS has training centres in Houston, TX and Louisiana which have welcomed more than 134,000 students since 2011. The link-up with Polaris Learning will allow these learners to complete qualifications remotely at the click of a button, through the Scottish firm’s online and blended learning portal, PLUS. Polaris Learning staff will provide additional support through webinars, video conferencing and email.

Courses initially on offer will include assessor, verifier and leadership management training along with a range of practical and work-based certificates, aimed mainly at large drilling and marine companies. It is expected that additional services, particularly around competency management, will be introduced to US learners as the relationship develops.

Keith Adam, managing director at Polaris Learning, said: “Breaking into new markets whilst working with other well-respected training providers ties in with our wider growth plans, which has seen our company work in an ever-increasing number of international locations over the past 12 months.

“Safety Management Systems is a major player in the US training sector so we are extremely pleased to be working so closely with an established partner to bring our knowledge and experience to bear for individuals working in the country’s energy industry.

“This link-up is an important first step and we expect to secure a number of key clients for our range of training courses within the first year of this collaboration. To begin with, the scope of our agreement will cover the US only but we are hopeful this could lead to further opportunities in Canada, Mexico and South America.”

Safety Management Systems (SMS), headquartered in Lafayette, Louisiana, is one of the largest health, safety, environmental, medical, security and training service companies in the United States. It is a provider of highly-rated and comprehensive training programmes for the oil and gas industry, including OPITO, API and USCG-approved courses. In addition to its dedicated training facilities, SMS provides on-site training for customers around the world.

Marc Pretorius, training manager at Safety Management Systems’ Houston training facility, said: “We first approached Polaris Learning as a training partner based on its track-record and reputation for providing high-quality training courses to clients in the oil and gas industry.

“The synergies between the two companies made this the right fit for both parties so we are excited about the potential this agreement brings, particularly in terms of the ability to offer our clients a bespoke online learning experience. This service will perfectly complement our company’s existing range of practical assessments and qualifications to give the end-user greater flexibility when it comes to completing qualifications and assessments.”

Polaris Learning recorded turnover of just under £1million for its December 2016 year-end. The company is targeting year-on-year growth with turnover projected to increase by more than 50% to £1.5million by the end of 2018.

Established in 1996, Polaris Learning provides competency management services as well as an extensive range of accredited training and qualification programmes from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM).

The business was recently approved for the Business Gateway Growth Pipeline, an intensive 18-month programme which provides across-the-board support covering business strategy, marketing strategy, IT resources and research into overseas markets.

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