– T&T’s energy expert
The oil-and-gas sector can develop high standard technical and vocational skills which can be transferred to other sectors, according to energy expert Anthony Paul, a Trinidad national who serves on Guyana’s Local Content Committee.
According to a GINA report, Paul pointed out that there exists a myth over the types of jobs available in the oil-and-gas sector. While engineers and geologists are necessary skills in the industry, for Guyana, the job opportunities lie in technical and vocational skills.
“You ask where the jobs are? Technical and vocational skills are very important,” Paul said.
Guyana is preparing for oil production sometime in 2020, after significant oil find in 2015.
Paul pointed out that Trinidad and Tobago “did well” at developing those skills with apprenticeship programmes in its oil-and-gas industry. “There are many more; as welders, fabricators, mechanics, people doing diesel machine… You have the kernel of that in the schools; they may be distressed at the moment, but do you rescue that culture and use it to build those areas?”
He noted that this is a decision for the Government to make. More importantly, these skills are transferrable.
In Trinidad’s case, Paul noted, the twin-island state’s oil-and-gas sector employ only about four percent of the workforce, but more than 20 per cent of T&T’s workforce is trained in some technical or vocational skill.
“How do you think they got that skill? Because the oil industry needed the skills and invested in the schools. If you train 100 technicians and the industry hires 10, 90 are available for elsewhere,” Paul illustrated.
Additionally, these skills, when transferred, can also raise the standards of the sectors in which they are used.
Paul, however, cautioned that developing technical and vocational skills must not be done at the neglect of high-end skills. “The other high-end skills are of value too, and you want to focus on those as well; but we tend to focus on the operation (of) technical skills,” he said.
“If we fail to develop the high-end skills, we end up using the same foreigners that we had to bring into the country to do the job,” Paul explained.
The Government has to be strategic in how it develops skills for the industry, Paul cautioned. Paul used Ghana as an example of how this did not work out. “A lot of families spend money on children doing studies (for which they cannot find employment) now.”
Over the last two years, Paul worked as an advisor to the Ghanaian Government, developing and putting regulatory systems in place for that country’s Ministry of Petroleum.
“Guyana has to be careful about what training you spend your money on,” he said. The Government is cognisant of this, and has been making provision for developing both technical and high-end skills.
The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNRE), through the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), has committed to spending $100 million over the next three years to boost UG’s training capacity for the oil-and-gas industry. Additionally, the MNRE has with the Mexican Petroleum Institute a partnership arrangement that includes scholarships particularly in areas of technical and vocational skills. There are also plans for a Petroleum Scientific Institute to be established locally by 2020.
Anthony Paul is currently a consultant to the Ministry of Natural Resources on the development of a Local Content Policy for Guyana’s oil-and-gas sector.
Anthony Paul, T&T energy consultant at the Natural Resources Ministry