Kampala. As Uganda nears the final stages of drilling commercial oil, experts have warned that not enough has been done to give Ugandans the right skills.
During a forum held at Sunmaker Oil and Gas Training Institute last week to discuss challenges and solution of skilling Uganda, trainers said current trainees will hardly have the much expected skills because training institutions are largely concentrating on theory instead of practical lessons.
“I doubt that we can produce qualified people shortly,” Mr Mark Zhiwu, the head of training at Sunmaker Education Technology Uganda, said adding:
“Universities and training institutes have diplomas, certificates that last one year yet they put a lot of emphasis on theory. The oil and gas industry sector needs technicians who have hands-on skills and for that kind of people we should focus on hands-on training.”
Uganda is expected to start producing commercial oil by at least 2020, according to government.
However, there are concerns on whether there is an ample group of trainers who have enough knowledge about the actual requirements of the oil sector, which raises concerns, especially because the oil and gas sector is highly specialised and risky.
“When you do the construction of the pipeline, it has to be welded very well otherwise there will be leakages. You must have the standards for the oil industry to minimise accidents,” Mr Zhiwu said.
Tackling skills shortage has been a key government priority as it is expected that the oil and gas sector will create more than 161,000 jobs.
Three quarters of the projected jobs will require technical and vocational skills.
Over the past years, government has been involved in initiatives for the sector’s skills development including establishment of Uganda Petroleum Institute Kigumba and development of undergraduate training at Makerere University.
Mr Justine Odong, deputy principal of Uganda Petroleum Institute, Kigumba, admitted that the current curriculum is insufficient to meet the industry needs.
“Ours is about the quality of training that we offer. You know what the industry demands. They demand internationally recognised qualifications and that is another thing we are trying to work on,” he said.
Currently, he added, the institute, for instance, needs to acquire City and Guilds, and Offshore Petroleum and Industry Training Organisation certifications to ensure that graduates are competent enough.
Undermined. The capacity of Uganda to tackle the skills gap by 2020 is also being undermined by low numbers among trainees. Uganda Petroleum Institute for instance, admits 30 students per year because of limited facilities. According to the Mr Jack Lau Ping managing director of Humanoid, it is absolutely important for government to have dialogue with production companies as regards how best to make education in oil and gas sector cheaper.