On Thursday and Friday of last week the Critchlow Labour College in collaboration with Kaizen Environmental Services, a Trinidad and Tobago company whose profile credits it with providing services that “balance environmental sensitivity with economic concerns,” executed a two-day Course titled “Introduction To Oil and Gas” comprising twelve modules. The Course attracted around 25 students, mostly young people, including two young women, one a Guyana Defence Force rank currently pursuing a course in Welding with the Guyana Industrial Training Centre (GITC) and the other a seventeen-year-old secondary school student.
The Course itself comprised twelve modules, and took the form of lectures ranging in duration from twelve minutes (History of The Oil and Gas Industry) to two hours (The Oil and Gas Value Chain and The Petroleum System.) After-wards there was an assessment and the award of a Certificate of Completion.
There was no disguising the fact that this was an opportunity being used by the Critchlow Labour College in the wider exercise of reinventing itself, a not untimely public reminder that there used to be a time, not so long ago, when the College offered the opportunity for a qualification that served to allow for entry into the University of Guyana. Those who remember the heyday of the College would recall too that the late T. Anson Sancho, one of the country’s better-known teachers and a prominent student of Industrial Relations, was largely responsible for sustaining the Industrial Relations programme over several years. Here, it is worth mentioning too that the decline of the CLC took place at a time when there had been little else to bridge the gap between secondary school and some sort of qualification that would allow for entry into UG so that we were faced with a certain level of displacement and disorientation among younger people whose post-secondary ambitions were crippled by the dichotomy between their desires as far as higher education was concerned and the limits to what they had achieved in the school system. Conceivably, many hundreds of young people would have missed out (and continue to miss out) on the opportunity of a university education on account of the crisis that afflicted the CLC.
The decline of the College was partly a function of much less than efficient management, on the one hand, and on the other, a function of those familiar and enormously counterproductive differences between trade unionists and politicians that have blighted worker representation in so many ways.
All of that being said, what the College and Kaizen did together last week was to record an interesting piece of history not so much because of the level of the programme (it was very much a beginners’ exercise) but because it afforded a rare opportunity for ordinary Guyanese, all of them young people from humble backgrounds, to secure some level of exposure to orientation in a sector upon which Guyana is pinning much of its economic ambitions in the years ahead.
If circumstances did not allow for us to interview the entire class it was clear from the reaction of the handful with whom we spoke that they felt decidedly privileged to be there and that they had, it seemed, already moved to a point where they had already begun to harbour dreams of possibly securing jobs in the oil industry. Their enthusiasm appeared to be shared, as much by the indefatigable Secretary of the Board of the CLC, Lincoln Lewis and Kevin Durham, the Kaizen Engineer assigned to deliver the programme.
Towards the end of the final afternoon we were able to listen in on discussions between the two on the matter of broadening the base of the joint effort of the CLC and Kaizen to develop an expanded oil and gas curriculum for Guyanese, so that they can at least envisage rewarding vocations in the sector, whether it be directly in the oil recovery process or in some facet of onshore activities related to either the fulsome development of an oil and gas sector or to other oil and gas-related industries.
So that it is more than worth the while to wonder aloud as to whether the time is not right for some sort of review of the relationship between government and the CLC that brings us to a juncture where the College can begin to serve again as an institution that supports at least some of the training needs of both the public and private sectors. One makes this point both in the context of the various skills required to pursue self-employment (business-related skills in the manufacturing sector, for example, come immediately to mind) or in the oil and gas sector, where we are yet to come to an understanding of the full range of job opportunities that are likely to become available, both directly and indirectly.
Finally, the Critchlow/Kaizen training venture could well mark the start, however modest that might be, of what at an earlier stage had appeared to be the promise of a level of Guyana/Trinidad and Tobago co-operation in the development of an oil and gas sector here. Up until now that has not materialized.