By Kiana Wilburg
Oil producing nations have the power to demand that operators do more than just the bare minimum when it comes to employing locals.
To prove this, the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA) referenced Yemen, the second-largest Arab sovereign state in the Peninsula, which ensured that almost 100 percent of the labour force used for its oil and gas industry, was Yemeni.
Headquartered in London, IPIECA develops shares and promotes good practice and knowledge with oil producing nations.
The Association noted that French oil major, Total, had to invest US$4.5 billion into a Yemen LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) project which was launched in August 2005. IPIECA said that the project is by far the largest in the nation’s history.
IPIECA said that the company had strict instructions to ensure at least “90% Yemenization of staff.” This was achieved by 2015. But in order to do so, Total had to do several things.
The Association said that Total set up an integrated strategy to recruit, train, retain and motivate a world-class Yemeni workforce—all on employment terms and conditions that are highly competitive within the region. To compensate for the scarcity of local personnel competent in LNG operations, IPIECA said that the Yemen LNG set up training centres that offer an intensive, high-calibre training programme for technical specialists, engineers and supervisors.
To populate that scheme, Total launched an advertising campaign to attract candidates through radio, TV and the national press. Out of 16,000 application forms submitted for technical specialist level, the company chose 200 candidates.
Training began with an intensive three-month English programme (since the official language of Yemen is Arabic), followed by eight months of training in oil and gas techniques.
This was followed by 13 months of hands-on training. Out of 7,058 applicants for the supervisory training levels, IPIECA said that 82 engineers and supervisors ultimately joined the ranks of Yemen LNG.
The Association said that many of the supervisor trainees for this specific level had acquired skills and knowledge working abroad.
The transparency body said that Total offered competitive packages to these expatriates to attract them back home and to participate in the development and the operation of the LNG project. IPIECA said that the training programme for the Yemeni LNG plant was a first for the country. Based on this success, Yemen LNG moved to run further programmes to train technicians to fill vacant positions as the first batch of trainees move on to assume senior and supervisory roles.
To ensure that locals are able to participate to the fullest extent in the oil and gas sector, IPIECA advised that an effective local content programme must be in place at the national level.
It said that this usually features training and skills development elements to help the local population achieve the minimum standards required by the company—either in terms of general education or specialist skills. It said that such training can be an in-house initiative, or the company can look to local institutions to provide any necessary training.
In either case, IPIECA said that the programme should be based on a detailed analysis of local capabilities and a schedule of the skills requirements over the life of the asset.
The Association said that aspects of such training can include basic education. In this regard, it said, “Depending on the quality of the local education system, training programmes may benefit from education in basic capabilities such as numeracy and literacy.
Although these fundamental requirements add to the time required to train local employees, the results provide a lasting legacy of improved educational levels.”
As far as possible, IPIECA urged that training activities should suit the learning needs of participants in terms of language skills, level of education and style of learning.
It said, too, that practical experience is fundamental to building competencies in technical and trade skills and for supervisory and managerial positions.
IPIECA said, “This presents a challenge where comparable working environments are not available locally, or for offshore operations where capacity to accommodate trainees is often limited. Some companies have developed programmes that base trainees at their facilities elsewhere in the country or internationally.”
IPIECA also said that scholarship awards can be an effective way to attract talented young people into the industry and a valuable social investment activity.
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