An Oil Rig: Students in tertiary institutions want to get skills to work in the oil and gas sector

Members of the Guild Presidents’ Forum on Oil Governance (GPFOG) have condemned President Yoweri Museveni’s recent suggestion that government will hire foreigners to work in the oil sector especially in positions where Ugandans lack the requisite skills.

President Museveni is alleged to have made the remarks at the Skilling and Local Content Forum held between January 22 and 23, 2018 in Kampala.

But in a statement issued days ago, GPFOG, a youth-led association of current and former Guild Presidents, Guild Ministers and youth leaders in institutions of higher learning across Uganda, convened a meeting in Kampala to review Museveni’s remarks on skilling Ugandans to find gainful employment in the oil sector.

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‘The President’s remarks were not only painful and a rebuff to youth’s hopes of finding gainful employment in the oil sector, they were also testament to a lack of adequate commitment by his government in ensuring local content in the oil sector’, the group wrote.

Despite government putting in place policies and laws and undertaking some interventions such as instituting a National Suppliers Database to enable national participation in the oil and gas sector, the youth note that what is being done is insufficient and that youth access to information on relevant oil and gas skills is still limited, putting them at risk of studying irrelevant courses.

Moreover, the group says, vocational training in Uganda is still weak and government efforts to strengthen it by creating centres of excellence two years before production of first oil in 2020 is not helpful. Further, the youth say that their lecturers and other trainers are still weak because of inadequate efforts by government to enable industry attachments that would see lecturers and trainers deliver better content.

The youth also say that the poor regulation of oil and gas training institutes including sub-standard ones that have mushroomed across the country puts them at risk of being exploited and receiving irrelevant skills.

The group wants government to strengthen vocational and university training particularly to increase the number of certified institutes, put in place a vocational training curricula, set standards for training and institute a multi-stakeholder committee to uphold these standards.

Further, they suggest that government puts in place a quota system that shows what percentage of Ugandans must be employed in the oil and gas sector. “These quotas must be strictly enforced,” they say in a statement.

They argue that the Ministry of Energy and other relevant ministries must put in place a workplan that details for how and when Ugandans will be trained to ensure that there are enough skills to meet the set quotas. The workplan must be widely publicised to enable Ugandans hold government accountable, the statement says

The group urges government to support universities to improve the training. “Government must strengthen trainers and lecturers through industry attachment and others and must ensure hands-on training through apprenticeships and internships by students,” they say, calling for the oil and gas skills communications strategy that is planned for in the National Content Policy to be put in place.

Uganda has proven crude oil reserves of 6.5 billion barrels, about 1.7 billion of which is recoverable. There is also an estimated 500 billion cubic feet of non-associated gas and under 200 billion feet of associated gas, just from 40 per cent of the exploration areas.

Preparations for the construction of the oil refinery and pipeline are underway as the country aims to have the first oil drilled for commercial purposes by the year 2020. Given that the oil sector is the youngest in Uganda, most nationals don’t have the required knowledge and skills, much as some youth have rushed to gain the skills. Fear is that they might lose jobs to foreigners and that’s the concern of GPFOG.

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