By our reporter

State Minister for Higher Education John C Muyingo has called for more practical education for workers planning to be employed in the oil and gas sector.

There are many Ugandans looking forward to new opportunities opening in the oil sector but few have relevant training to the oil and gas field.

Training service providers have warned that people undergoing training are likely to lack quality skills needed by 2020 when the oil is expected to be pumped out.

At the Oil and Gas Forum organised at Sunmaker Oil and Gas Training Institute last week, leading minds on oil and gas discussed challenges and opportunities in providing right skills to Ugandans.

Sunmaker Oil and Gas Training Institute made the forum a platform to put into context the challenges in Oil and Gas up-skilling and solutions to inform Uganda’s Oil and Gas personnel development system.

It was revealed that training in the sector so far largely concentrates on theory instead of practical lessons.

“I doubt that we can produce qualified people shortly,” head of Training Sunmaker Education Technology Uganda, Mark Zhiwu said.

He added that “Universities and training institutes have diplomas, certificates that last one year and they put a lot of theory. The oil and gas industry needs technicians who require hands-on practice and for that kind of people we should focus on hands-on training.”

The oil and gas sector is highly specialized and risky at the same time and that was the reason right skills are needed.

Mr Zhiwu says, “When we do the construction of the pipeline, we have to weld it very well otherwise there will be leakage. We must have the standards for the oil industry to minimize accidents.”

According to Muyingo, oil and gas industry will create about 161,000 jobs of which 14,000 are direct.

He said training institutes like Sunmaker Energy (U) Ltd (“Sunmaker”) are handy because they are training a critical workforce to see Uganda succeed in the sector.

Three quarters of the projected oil and gas jobs, both middle level and jua kali, will require technical and vocational skills.

Mr Jack Lau Ping Managing director of Humanoid, advised the government to dialogue with production companies to make education in oil and gas sector more affordable and accessible.

He said, “The cost of oil in the ground actually becomes a part of the development of people. So when they sell the oil, a high proportion of the resources is redirected into people’s development therefore giving a big subsidy.”

The half day forum gathered people from various organizations, including but not limited to, training service providers (e.g. TVET institutes, companies and Universities), training sponsors, employers and government agencies, that are involved in the training and education of skilled Oil and Gas personnel.