RECRUITMENT specialist Orion Group is set to more than double its turnover in Papua New Guinea after "strategically reducing" its presence from Kazakhstan — one of its key markets in recent years.
The Inverness headquartered business expects to earn £23 million in the area this year after expanding its training facility, up from £10.4 million in 2010.
It is also on course to have more than 1000 fully trained contractors on its books in Papua New Guinea by 2013.
The operation is headed by group vice chairman Ian Martin, who
relocated to Inverness from Glasgow in 1984 but has spent the past 17 years working around the world.
"The potential for opportunities within Papua New Guinea was identified several years ago in parallel to our exit strategy for Kazakhstan," he said.
"The region has proved to be the perfect replacement for skilled oil and gas personnel from our many areas of operation."
Orion launched its regional presence in 2009, establishing a training school to support the construction of a liquefied natural gas plant and several other large infrastructure projects.
Since then it has trained 4000 locals and has been so successful that the system is to be copied at several of its other locations around the world.
"We manage and facilitate training and competency assessment reviews for the local workers as our primary function," Mr Martin said. "There is a very small local skilled workforce in the area, so we had to make sure we had the right people with the right skills for the jobs."
"Papua New Guinea will see us working with a variety of local landowners, tribes and varying operating agreements, but we look forward to the challenge."
Ten years ago when Mr Martin joined the company it only had one international office, in Azerbaijan, but he has since been involved with its expansion into Russia, North America, the middle east and south east Asia.
In Kazakhstan, where he also worked, Orion established a 50-50 joint venture with Kazakh firm Kis in 2001 but has been scaling back since the government changed work permit legislation to limit the involvement of foreign workers.
"We decided to work towards more lucrative opportunities elsewhere in the world, allowing key individuals to concentrate their expertise in new areas," Mr Martin said.
"This also allowed our Kazakh partners to continue the operation with 100 per cent Kazakh content in line with government wishes."
Orion is headed by chairman Alan Savage and based at Castle Heather in Inverness. It has 26 other offices in the UK and worldwide, directly employs more than 270 staff and has thousands of contractors on its books. Clients include most major oil and gas firms.
It reported a total turnover of £247 million in 2010.