UG’s oil and gas programmes coincide with report on impending global skills crisis in sector

Ivelaw Griffith

The fast approaching manifestation of first oil for Guyana, is coinciding with what Oil and Gas People, one of the world’s leading job sites in the sector, says is an impending skills crisis which will impact the industry as a whole.

Oil and Gas People is quoted in a January 23 Report as alluding to the Global Energy Talent Index involving 17,000 respondents from around the world, out of which 40% are of the view that a skills crisis already exists, while 28% anticipate that the scarcity will “take hold” within the next five years. Nearly half of the respondents reportedly said that they were concerned about an impending skills crisis.One of the reasons cited in the report for the shortage of workers trained to work in the various sub-sectors of the oil and gas sector, is what it says has been the decision by many companies to cut back on graduate schemes, apprenticeships and training programme, during the downturn in oil prices, thereby slowing the influx of young talent into the sector.

With the pace of progress towards first oil now seemingly quickening, there have been signs of some measure of emphasis on equipping locals with skills that would enable them to be part of the industry.

Foreign companies like TOTALTEC Oilfield Services, Century Tamara Energy Services and the Guyanese-run Strategic Recruitment Services, have also been involved in training. Less than a week ago, the University of Guyana launched two separate degree programmes designed to better position Guyanese to function in the local oil and gas sector. UG’s Associate Degree in Science (Petroleum Engineering) is being offered in collaboration with the University of the West Indies (UWI), while its Master’s Degree in Science (Petroleum Engineering) is being rolled out in partnership with the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT).

If the advent of an oil and gas sector has long been seen as potentially opening a door for a range of worthwhile employment opportunities for Guyanese, the reality, particularly in terms of jobs associated with oil recovery, has been different. The country has had to settle for the importation of the range of skills that are key to the development of the industry, whilst awaiting the outcomes of its own training programmes to fructify. At last week’s launch of the university’s two oil and gas courses, Vice Chancellor Professor Ivelaw Griffith, said that in the absence of the requisite skills bank locally, UG had found it necessary “to build partnerships to tap into the expertise of people who are in Guyana and out of Guyana.” The university’s initiative, he has said, seeks “to help us deal with some of the realities that we aren’t able to deal with ourselves.”

More than seventy students have already signed up for the two programmes. The Associate Degree programme will be a two-year full-time course that will focus on mathematics, physics and petroleum, and students successfully completing that programme can then undertake the Master’s Degree in petroleum engineering.

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