Nov 23, 2022 News
Kaieteur News – The International Labour Organization (ILO) has completed two separate studies on the skills needed for the oil and gas and construction sectors here and will present the findings on 30 November 2022.
The reports provide an overview of the main profiles and competencies needed in either industry during the period 2022-2026 as resulting from dedicated establishment surveys and interviews with local stakeholders, ILO said in a Press Release. The UN Agency said the information can contribute shaping the ongoing reform of the education and training system in Guyana to address issues of access, equity, quality and relevance in relation to the changing demands of the economic and social environment. “The ILO estimates that nearly six million people are directly employed by the petroleum industry and over ten times that number of jobs are indirectly created by the industry. Similarly, the construction industry generates jobs for large numbers of people and produces a wide range of products with diverse enterprises. The findings will be presented by Diego Rei, Specialist, Employment and Labour Market Policies, and Miguel Macias, Manager of the Consultancy firm, Blindspot who co-authored the study.
Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge during a Kaieteur Radio programme last year had noted that a population of less than one million people with nine billion barrels of oil resources to develop will bring challenges such as a shortage of skills. Greenidge said that Guyana has been suffering from a skills shortage since the 1990s, noting that even in 2030, it is highly unlikely that Guyana will generate the range and depth of skills needed to fully exploit its oil resources extensively or to even align with its own ambitions for the resources that are available. “You need far more engineers, economists, and geophysicists…And I know this statement may get me in trouble but half the time you can’t even find competent secretaries. But certainly, one of the issues facing Guyana in the oil sector is the need to generate more skills…”
Only recently Professor Leyland Lucas during a panel discussion hosted by the Guyana Business Journal and moderated by Dr. Terrence Blackman, an Associate Professor of Mathematics, said Guyana’s success with its Local Content legislation is inextricably linked to how it deals with the current shortage of skills needed for the new industry. He posited that rapid skills development is critical not just for the technical aspects of oil and gas but also for the low hanging fruits of local content.
Dr. Lucas said, “there are some realities that we must bear in mind when having a conversation about local content and its effectiveness. There is no perfect piece of legislation and what has been created will go through several iterations over the years simply because we have to deal with the realities of our environment.” Lucas further added, “we are implementing a policy at a time when many of the skills that are necessary to really take advantage of what I would call the high end opportunities just do not exist within the system. Therefore, one of the critical things will be skills development and how quickly we can do this.”
While he posits that skills development is critical, Dr. Lucas said stakeholders must bear in mind that the skills vacuum will not be fixed overnight.
Dr. Lucas continued by saying, “there will be a number of development initiatives that will have to take place and some will involve short courses or quick turnaround programmes and others will involve taking advantage of more long term opportunities. So one of the questions we really have to grapple with is how quickly do we ramp up those trainings, how quickly do we take advantage of some of those local content opportunities, while at the same time ensuring that quality does not suffer.”
Labour market dominated by foreigners
Notwithstanding, one of the leading Trade Union Organizations, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) in a statement earlier this year, had said that through its regular interaction with workers of the oil sector, it was simply aghast to learn of the level of foreign involvement to the detriment of our own Guyanese. The Union said then that while almost in a knee-jerk fashion it is said that Guyanese lack qualification, skill, and experience to undertake certain tasks in an effort to justify expatriate labour, “we have learnt that some firms have employed foreign labour for tasks which Guyanese can undertake. For instance, we learnt a well known foreign company has recruited foreign nationals as drivers, mechanics, and other trades. Another firm has employed foreigners to undertake labouring tasks.
“While another has imported labour to perform the tasks of artisans. In all instances, we believe, Guyanese possess the requisite skills and experience but are being sidelined in favour of foreigners. Just recently, we recollect, Minister within the Ministry of Public Works, Deodat Indar, alluding to displaced and highly competent workers from the sugar industry being able to take up employment in the burgeoning oil sector,” the statement by GAWU further said
According to GAWU, apart from the taking the jobs of locals, “the foreigners, we understand, are receiving conditions-of-employment that are superior to locals. This is patently discriminatory, and we consider disrespectful to Guyanese.” Additionally, GAWU said foreign workers are reportedly benefitting from housing, subsistence, and other allowances while our Guyanese brothers and sisters receive nothing of the sort. “Worse yet it appears that many of the foreigners engaged have not received permission to work in Guyana yet are allowed employment without even paying income taxes to the State. We are unaware of whether Immigration Officials are aware of such developments though locals shared with us that, it appeared, these companies operate with impunity and no fear of repercussion,” the Union said.
In its 2022 Mid-Year Report, the Irfaan Ali-led Government had said that a Consultant will review gaps in the labour market and support the design of training and appropriate policy advice to resolve the ongoing issues. With just a population of about 700,000 people, a report by the International Organisation on Migration (IOM), had highlighted that the foregoing review would be urgently needed since the country could face a labour crisis with the emergence of the oil and gas sector. The Report states that if Guyana were to harness all of its unemployed, underemployed and discouraged workers, the potential supply of labour would be only 63,500 the medium-term. It goes on to state that Guyana will need approximately 160,000 workers. It concluded that there will be the need for, at minimum, 100,000 workers in Guyana to realise its full growth potential.
With this in mind, the IOM said it is crucial that Guyana understands that it needs to tap into its Diaspora potential and urgently produce a structured migration policy, informed by evidence-based analysis.
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