By Ibrahim Kasita
An Italian Organization has agreed to partner with Uganda’s Kyambogo University to offer specialised and certified courses on oil and refinery welding.
This is intended to produce skilled and qualified youth to takeover that ‘blue collar” jobs that the Uganda’s oil and gas industry will create.
Kambogo University’s oil and gas professional training coordinator, Stephen Wekoye, wrote a letter of intent to Italian Institute of Welding regarding possible linkage in oil and gas industry welding training opportunities.
“As a country there are limited skills in fabrication and welding with poor technology due to the state of the country’s economy,” he stated.
“The country has embarked on the development phase for its vast oil resources recently discovered with the first Phase in construction of the Oil Refinery and Pipeline for oil and gas transportation hence collaboration of this type would be timely and targeted.”
And Michele Murgia Education and Training Manager of the Italian Institute of Welding (Gruppo Istituto Italiano della Saldatura) accepted.
“We would (are) glad to have the chance to cooperate with you with the target of satisfying the request of skilled manpower in the Oil and Gas field,” he replied.
Therefore, I’m personally at your disposal, also for discussing this matter during a meeting we could program in your University, if needed, also for evaluating other possible cooperation possibilities, such as in the field of Research activities.”
The Honorary Consul of Uganda in Genoa since 2001 Dr Albrieux Giacomo has contributed since the very beginning to create the linkage between the two Bodies and contributed to speed up the formalities and informations.
Shortage of international certified skills needed for the emerging petroleum sector poses major obstacles in ensuring that Ugandans get the juicy oil jobs. The approach and strategy of skilling the workforce is not tailored to sustainability.
This is very instructive as Uganda prepares to get into oil production. While a few wealthy and well-connected Ugandans can send their sons and daughters to study in Europe and US in preparation for top-level jobs in the oil sector jobs, most of the jobs will be low level blue collar jobs in welding, metal fabrication, pipelines, masons and artisans.
The public sector has sent many of its employees abroad to pursue master degrees in petroleum related courses. The oil companies, when forced to train Ugandans, have supported Ugandans to study courses that will get them jobs at trainee in management level.
This is not really a bad strategy. The only problem is there are only few top level jobs. More jobs in particular for the youth are in the "blue collar" jobs
This has been neglected or dealt with in a slow pace. Now that the confirmed oil deposits have increased to 3.5 billion barrels in reserves up from 2.5 billion barrels there is justification for a local refinery.
This will spark a web of pipelines from linking the various oil fields to transport crude from oil wells through the central processing facility to the refinery for purification before sale to the market.
Construction of the refinery and the associated pipelines will need qualified, skill and certified welders and metal fabricators.
If there are no qualified Ugandans who meet the strict standards to do the job, workers will be outsourced from Kenya, Egypt, Algeria, Zimbabwe, Trinidad and Tobago and from other parts of the world.
Skills required in oil pipeline fabrication go beyond welding metal doors, windows, gates, water and fuel tanks, motor vehicle bodies and brick making machines. It involves learning stick electrodes, wire feed processes, plasma arc cutting, air cutting, computerised cutting and oxyacetylene welding.
Such skills must be certified to ensure that they meet international standards for pipe and steel welding. Although Katwe Fabricators Cluster boasts of about 800 firms employing 3000 people few if any have the mandated qualifications
For them to compete favourably they need to earn the American Welding Society and American Society of Mechanical Engineers certification which are expensive.
The Enhancing National Participation in the Oil and Gas Industry in Uganda 2011 final report, states that Vocational training is essential in industrial capacity building and for businesses to develop.
"The curricula and training programs for skills development institutions are not standardised. There is no uniformity in the courses being offered, the quality of the training as well as the standards to be complied with by all providers," it observes.
"The unstructured nature of non-formal training institutions makes coordination of training very difficult. The quality also suffers from an inadequate certification system."
The report notes that the most severe is the low quality of vocational training. "There is a lack of adequately trained instructors, as there also is a lack of appropriate training equipment," it notes.
"Training of high quality requires appropriate equipment, tools and adequate supply of training materials."
The report suggests that capacity of vocational training has to be strengthened. "A large part of the work force needed by the oil companies and their subcontractors will be skilled and semi-skilled with a vocational training background." It states.
The capacity and competence of these institutions will have to be prioritized and improved. Building educational capacity is primarily a responsibility of the Government. The Government should make BTVET and education in general a key budget prior
The Italian Institute of Welding (IIS) is active in the field of training in welding at all levels (from the Welder up to the Welding Engineer) and is the National Body authorized to issue qualifications by the European Welding Federation (EWF) and the International Institute of Welding (IIW).