Kaieteur News – The decision to construct an oil and gas training college in Berbice has raised several concerns about its necessity and expenditure. While the initiative might seem like a step in the right direction, the feasibility and benefits of this project appear questionable.
One of the most glaring issues with the decision to build an oil and gas training college in Berbice is the geographical disconnect between the location of the college and the region’s job market. The bulk of oil and gas-related facilities and job opportunities are concentrated in Demerara. This stark reality raises the question of whether investing in a training facility in Berbice is the most efficient use of resources.
One argument, which is heard, but not grounded in facts is that the college will help generate jobs in Berbice. This is far-fetched because while the college may generate a corps of trained personnel, there are no plans to establish oil and gas industries in Berbice. While there might be some initial employment opportunities during the construction phase, the long-term job prospects for Berbice residents within the oil and gas industry remain questionable. It is highly unlikely that major oil and gas companies will establish operations in Berbice, making it challenging for graduates of the college to secure employment within the region.
At present, we have thousands of teenagers who have graduated from secondary school, many with passes in five and more subjects at the CSEC, but there are no jobs for these school-leavers. Many of them will have to migrate to the city or overseas just in order to find employment. There are precious little jobs available for these secondary school graduates. It is a tragedy of unimaginable proportions that has been taking place for decades now in Berbice and is mainly responsible for the region’s underdevelopment. Even some of the larger businesses in Berbice have begun to cut back on employment. The college is expected to cost the government a fortune. But why build a college when you have existing industrial-training facilities that are more than sufficient to provide for oil and gas-related- training for prospective students of the institution? Why spend more than one billion dollars to provide the same level and quality of training which can be provided by existing facilities. And where will the additional students be found to populate the college.
A more rational approach to addressing the need for oil and gas training in Berbice would have been to make better use of existing facilities within the region. Berbice already boasts educational institutions, such as the Government Technical Institute and the Port Mourant Industrial Training School both of which could have been upgraded and tailored to meet the specific needs of the oil and gas sector.
By investing in the expansion and enhancement of these existing institutions, the government could have provided a more practical solution for the training needs of Berbice residents. This approach would not only have saved significant financial resources but also ensured that the training facilities were strategically located to cater to the actual job market.
But like with the new hospital which is being built at New Amsterdam and No.74 Villages, the government believes that by spending more on such infrastructure, it is actually creating jobs. But what happens when the construction ends? To where will the labour used on construction be deployed?
Constructing a new college is an expensive endeavour. The funds allocated for building the oil and gas training college in Berbice could have been channeled towards more pressing needs in the region. Berbice faces numerous challenges, foremost of which is providing jobs for the hundreds of school-leavers each year. We have ministers in the government who if they were living in Berbice would have struggled to find a job in keeping with their qualifications and ambitions.
Furthermore, the ongoing operational costs of the new college will place an additional burden on the Treasury. This includes expenses for staffing, maintenance, and utilities. These ongoing costs could be substantial, particularly if the college struggles to attract a sufficient number of students to cover its operational expenses. Instead of constructing a new oil and gas training college in Berbice, a more effective approach would have been to establish partnerships with existing institutions in Demerara. These partnerships could have facilitated the training of Berbice residents without the need for extensive infrastructure investments.
Moreover, the government could have encouraged oil and gas companies operating in Demerara to establish satellite training centers or scholarship programmes for Berbice residents. This would have provided direct access to the job market while avoiding the unnecessary costs associated with building a new college. But Berbice will have a new billion-dollar oil and gas college. The government will have a grand opening ceremony where speakers will extol the college as an investment in Berbice. In the meantime, hundreds of school-leavers will be asking about jobs. They will join the long list of persons in the country waiting on their papers to be processed for greener pastures in the USA and Canada.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of this newspaper and its affiliates.)
Pres. Ali putting water meters on the citizens in Berbice, and not meters on Exxon oil pumps.
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