I participated in the just concluded inaugural Guyana International Petroleum Business Summit and Exhibition and must congratulate the organizers and participants for making the conference one of meaningful discussion and analysis, and moreover a forum at which pertinent information was shared and burning questions posed. This should provide for a better understanding of the complexities, challenges and opportunities of Guyana’s emerging oil and gas industry. This should allow local businesses to begin their SWAT analyses (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) as it relates to their becoming players in the oil and gas industry.
For me, one of the more enlightening panels was entitled ‘Doing Business in Oil Field Services, Supply Chain and Facilities Management’. This panel had as its main speakers, representatives of three major sub-contractors of ExxonMobil who outlined some of the skills these companies are looking to source locally, the required qualifications of those who could fill these positions and the processes which potential applicants would have to use to apply for available positions. In one case, one of the companies disclosed that it had already hired ten University of Guyana graduates who are currently undergoing specialized training in Brazil and will soon be recruiting another 20.
During the discussions skills such as welding were identified as among those required and this led me to pose the following question to the panel: Is there scope for Guyanese tradespeople such as welders, electricians, plumbers and carpenters who are competent at what they do, have years of experience but lack certification? I was happy to hear that all three companies had already taken this issue into consideration and have in place a process for identifying such persons with a view to undertaking what they describe as “a gap analysis” to determine what training, if any, would be necessary to make these persons certifiable so as to be engaged in the oil and gas industry. This should be one avenue of local content which should be of benefit to Guyanese men and women who have acquired on the job skills and experience over the years but have not been formally trained. It is my hope that the information and methodology for identifying and accessing these uncertified artisans are widely publicized throughout Guyana so as to provide an opportunity for all who are interested. It seems to me that this is one area where there will be jobs for a significant number of Guyanese.
It is clear that the oil and gas industry is one where skills certification in order to be engaged is an absolute must. There can be no issue with this. It brings to mind an experience I had decades ago while I served as the public relations officer of the then Guyana Liquor Corporation (GLC). As part of an interviewing panel for promoting a distillery supervisor to manager I asked why the alcohol had to be heated to a specific degree. The man knew that the alcohol had to be heated to a specific level but did not know why. He had been working for over 25 years in the distillery. Yesu Persaud, then chairman of GLC said to me after the interview, “That man does not have 25 years’ experience, he has had one experience for 25 years.