The Petroleum Commission is set greatly to increase the numbers of qualified Ghanaians working as internationally accredited welders in Ghana’s oil and gas sector, says the Commission’s chief executive officer, Egbert Faibille Jr.
In an interview with Nana Yaa Mensah on the Asaase Breakfast Show on Thursday, the Commission chief executive said that over the next five years it will fund the training of 500 welders who will graduate with internationally recognised accreditation.
This will position them to work in sectors currently dominated by expatriate staff.
Boosting Ghanaian participation
The training programme is part of an effort to boost local participation in the oil and gas industry, which until now has tended to exclude Ghanaians at specialist levels, Faibille said.
A pioneer batch of five students was trained at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Canada between 2019 and 2020, undergoing intensive training that allowed them to fit three years of learning into one. (Canadian technical training facilities have developed a world-class reputation and are one of the first ports of call for human resource managers in the oil and gas industry worldwide.)
Now back in Ghana, the five new graduands will act as trainers of trainers, going on to equip up to 500 students in a second batch of trainees – also to be funded by the Petroleum Commission – with the specialist skills they acquired during their time in Canada.
Faibille said the Commission is playing an active role in ensuring that a certain quota of specialist vacancies is preserved for Ghanaians.
Commission steps in to negotiate
He cited a case in which the Commission stepped in to negotiate with an expatriate firm to reduce the numbers of foreign welders it planned to hire for the Takoradi-Tema Interconnection Project – the pipeline project that transports gas from the Western Region to Tema in the eastern part of Ghana.
An original request for 200 expatriate technical specialists was trimmed back to 120, he said.
With increasing numbers of Ghanaians acquiring internationally recognised skills and certification, it will become ever more possible for Ghana to build its skills base and to allow young, trained Ghanaians to take advantage of the job opportunities opened up by such new ventures as the Pecan exploration field, now being developed by the Norway-based Aker Energy, and the Ghanaian-owned Springfield Exploration & Production’s Afina-1x well in the West Cape Three Points Block 2.
“Admittedly, if you look at the area of welding, I don’t think a lot of our local welders have the requisite skills,” Faibille said. “Subsequently we were able to secure $250,000 from [the oil services firm Baker Hughes] to train five people in Canada,” he said.
The funding covered all travel, tuition fees, upkeep, welfare and assorted expenses. It also made it possible for the Petroleum Commission to progress work on realising the next phase of President Akufo-Addo’s vision in setting up the Accelerated Oil and Gas Capacity (AOGC) programme.
The Commission will find jobs for the five newly certified specialist welders, he said, and also encourage them to take up training other young Ghanaians to boost the numbers of qualified welders in Ghana.
Training technical teachers
“COVID-19 has slowed down activities in the oil and gas sector generally. We had a programme to train 100 people in Ghana in addition to the batch of five graduands who were trained overseas.”
This has now been deferred but will resume in earnest when movement is safer and tertiary education institutions reopen fully.
Longer-term plans are in hand to explore opportunities for training in Takoradi towards Canadian and other internationally recognised certification. The five newly returned technicians will play an important role in these plans.
The Commission is also considering how it might deploy virtual training tools to overcome some of the challenges the coronavirus outbreak poses to training. However, virtual training will play a limited role, hands-on learning being of the first importance to acquiring the kinds of specialist skills the five young men have gained.
National Institute for Welding
The Petroleum Commission also plans to establish a national Institute for Welding in Takoradi, said Kwaku Addo-Darko, director of resource management and operations.
This will help to increase the numbers of skilled personnel capable of working on big projects in the upstream petroleum sector.
The newly graduated students are already pioneers in their field in Ghana and will one day commonly come to be known as such.
They are James Bewiekah and Michael Attobrah of the Kikam Techinical Institute, Joseph Ghunney and Bright Oduro of the Takoradi Technical Institute and Dayankrah Abdul Rahman, a graduate of the Islamic University who was discovered by the Petroleum Commission at Suame Magazine in Kumasi.