OIL & GAS: Bridging The Skills Gap
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THE oil and gas industry in this country, in common with other sectors, is suffering from a serious shortage of skilled staff and artisans. Not because there is a shortage of people wanting to make a career in these fields, far from it. It’s just that it is hard for young people to find and fund the necessary training to set their feet on the ladder.
Keenly aware of this, the South African Oil and Gas Alliance (SAOGA) set up a Skills Division, with its current project manager Adrian Strydom taking responsibility for the Division at the beginning of this year. SAOGA aims to train a sustainable pool of skilled labour to dynamically respond to industry demand.
“Our current human resources capital, if you can call them that, consist in the main of school leavers, unemployed people with suitable aptitude, and people already employed in the Upstream Oil and Gas sector or a related sector. However, we also get some people, for example, from the Services Corps who are being reintegrated into the private sector, and are looking for a new opportunity,” Strydom says.
In addition to training employees currently employed in the oil and gas industry, working through community organisations and youth organisations the SAOGA Skills Division tries to identify suitable candidates, at the same time putting the word out so that people get to know about them and will come to them. The net they cast is quite wide to develop an appropriate pool of skills for the Oil and Gas sector. They need artisans like welders, riggers, quality inspectors, boiler makers, pipe fitters, fitters and others ranging from supervisors to project managers. The SAOGA training is in line with training needs identified through ongoing research in the sector and responds directly to the Asgisa and Jipsa scarce skills agenda. Once identified and assessed for interest, aptitude and competence, suitable candidates are then taken on for training in their preferred skills for periods ranging from weeks to several months. This is funded mainly by specific project funding from the Department of Labour and the Western Cape Provincial Government. In addition to the training, candidates - currently about 600 a year - are provided with a stipend to meet travel and living expenses during their period of study – something which Strydom feels is very important.
“The enthusiasm is truly heart-warming. Almost without exception, every candidate we take on in this scheme has worked hard and conscientiously and has the potential to graduate into a full working career - and I may say a well-paid one for some. Wages in the oil and gas sector are good, and that is an additional incentive for our learners to do well.”
Given the current recessionary situation, he says, they try not to raise expectations too high, and they ask the question: Is there an uptake for this learner in industry? Skills suitable for the oil and gas industry can be exported to the rest of Africa and further afield, and there can be short-term work on projects such as the Green Point Stadium and other construction projects, and ship repair. This provides ongoing future employment opportunities.
“Our immediate focus is on the Western Cape. A pool of appropriate skills will attract other projects to the Cape and benefit the economy as a whole.”
Looking to the future, Strydom hopes to expand the number of learners they develop through their system quite considerably, but to do this he needs more funding. Finding more money from Government, and contributions from the oil and gas industry, is a priority for him - and even in difficult times, he is hopeful.
“It is so obviously a good and important cause that I feel sure we can win further support,” he says.
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