Local expertise still short in oil and gas

Egbert Faibille Junior, Chief Executive Officer-Petroleum Commission

Although local content laws require oil and gas companies to prioritise Ghanaians in their recruitment processes in a bid to indigenise the sector, skills and knowledge gaps – especially in highly-specialised aspects – remain a setback.

Egbert Faibille Junior, Chief Executive Officer-Petroleum Commission – regulator of the upstream petroleum industry, has lamented that international oil companies (IOCs) often struggle to find qualified Ghanaians to fill certain roles within the industry, after more than 10 years into commercial oil production.

“When we engage with international oil companies and international service companies that hire our people, they always come back to us and say ‘we want to hire your people; however, we realise that the certifications they hold and qualifications do not meet the required standards’,” he said, calling for closer collaboration between industry and academia to bridge knowledge-gaps in the sector.

He explained that qualifications in the industry follow international standards – which presents both a challenge and a pristine opportunity for industry and academia. “Those qualifications have to be of international standards, and our educational institutions have a role to play in ensuring that the men and women are well-trained and qualified.”

Mr. Faibille Junior, who spoke at a conference organised by his outfit in Accra themed ‘Utilising trained Ghanaian technicians to achieve job-role localisation in the upstream petroleum sector’, noted that companies will gladly employ locals where the expertise exists – because the cost involved for bringing in an expatriate is way too expensive.

“Much as the world is now a global village and we get expatriates coming in, the truth and sad reality is that for each expatriate you see working in the oil industry in Ghana, the cost of bringing the expatriate, their living and working here, is passed on to Ghana when the crude is lifted,” he added.

On how the country should proceed if it wants to increase the number of highly qualified technical personnel in oil and gas, Mr. Faibille Junior said: “We need to deliberately train our own people, so that over a period of time they will take over the expatriate roles; and by that, the cost of oil and gas production in Ghana will go down.

“This way, our investor friends will make more money and our earnings from oil will also go up.”

Mr. Faibille Junior’s concerns are not isolated. For instance, last year the General Manager-Engineering at state-owned Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), Victor Kofi Sunu-Attah, told the B&FT that although some progress has been made in promoting local content in the industry, much more is needed to indigenise the sector.

He lamented that after more than 10 years of production, the country still lacks core competencies and not many local companies are capable of executing fabrication and engineering jobs.

“We have tried all that we could to build capacity; we have upped it a bit, but a huge amount of it stays outside the country.  “In the area of service, we need to up our game – although we are doing better in engineering than fabrication,” Mr. Sunu-Attah said.

Employment in upstream petroleum industry

The Petroleum Commission says a total of 3,759 Ghanaians are currently employed in the upstream petroleum sector out of a 4,147 workforce – of which 388 are expatriates.

However, those jobs held by expatriates are highly technical and at the high end of the industry, where local knowledge does not exist.

The Commission said local workers comprise 3,088 males and 671 females with varied technical expertise; including engineering, welding and fabrication, production operators, mechanics and instrumentation.

The Commission last year sponsored 150 technicians at a cost of GH¢4million to enhance their technical expertise at Takoradi Technical University under government’s Accelerated Oil and Gas Capacity Building (AOGC) programme; and they have gained employment in the petroleum industry and allied sectors, said Sarah Quayson Danquah, acting Director in charge of Localisation at the Commission.

She added that the Commission also sponsored nine instructors selected from Cape Coast, Ho and Tamale Technical Universities to undergo a ‘trainer-of-trainers’ programme in Canada to improve their skills, while 10 instructors will go to Singapore this year.

The conference

The conference, organised by the Petroleum Commission, was on the theme ‘Utilising trained Ghanaian technicians to achieve job-role localisation in the upstream petroleum sector’.

Participants included policymakers, captains of industries, international oil and gas companies and service providers.

It sought to address challenges within job role localisation in the upstream petroleum sector, including inadequate training and skill development opportunities for indigenes.

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