BY: DR VISHNU BISRAM
Guyanese are not really skilled or prepared to provide meaningful local content in oil. Providing bhajji or greens and fruits is not local content; every business has to buy food, so Exxon has to spend money on those local products. Local content really has to do with the development of local skills, technology transfer, and use of local personnel as well as local manufacturing in the oil and gas sector – for industrialisation.
Local content is building a workforce to take over the management of the oil industry eventually, towards complete ownership once the oil companies have recovered their costs and earned fair amount of revenues above and beyond their investment. All oil and gas-producing countries have ‘local content’ requirement in agreements signed by MNCs into their regulatory frameworks. The objective is to create jobs and train locals for the jobs that require technical skills.
Countries strategically direct local content to transfer technology into the country to accelerate industrial development. Guyana has no local skilled individuals in O&G, so we must train them.
In Guyana, the previous Government let the nation down in its handling of the oil and gas industry, by not having stringent requirements and inclusion. Local content should have been specified as skills and management-related, not purchasing louki (squash) or ochro. We have to think strategically for the future by training people for oil, not to supply pumpkin and payaya alone. Guyana must look ahead with a development plan.
We need a survey on our varied businesses to get a sense of what expertise is available locally that can supply local content to O&G, and to push for their employment of our tens of thousands of unemployed. A survey is also needed on skills needed in the oil and gas industry: how many personnel are needed, and what training would be provided to them? After training, jobs can be obtained from the oil sector.
The foreign staff would have to be replaced by local staff in years to come. So, we need to prepare for a transition. Guyana must move towards a skilled mindset. We must start training of personnel now, and look for establishment of institutes.
I think we should give consideration to transforming the Port Mourant Training Centre (PMTC) into a partial oil-and-gas institute to train skilled workers for the oil industry. We can twin it with the needs of the sugar factories. Such an institute should be a premier oil-and- gas institute in the region.
I have some ideas and suggestions in this endeavour, having engaged oil and gas experts in Trinidad, and having spent an inordinate amount of time in India engaging in management consultancies at tertiary institutions. That the PMTC provided skills to so many, who went on to become first rate engineers in the UK, Canada, USA, and Trinidad and elsewhere, earning triple-digit US dollar salaries, means the PMTC can do the same for oil and gas here.
I am from Port Mourant, and am familiar with the discipline and skills ingrained in those who were trained in the technical aspects of GuySuCo factories. Had it not been for my interest in medical sciences, I would have to sought admission at the PMTC, which was very competitive for those seeking entrance and a career in the technical field. Trainees at PMTC come from all over the country, and those youngsters are turned into disciplined engineers.
The PMTC can do for our budding O&G what it did for sugar. The institute can train people for local content participation – on land logistical management, EPA, health and safety, how to clean up oil spills, handle emergency, transportation logistics, food chain supply, and the technical aspects of drilling, piping, supplies, etc. It can also provide training for locals in overall administrative aspects of O&G and on the wider scope of the industry.