When I was pursuing a Bachelors of Laws at Uganda Christian University in my third year, a new optional course of Oil and Gas Law was added to the curriculum and it caused a fuss among the students in fourth year then as they wrestled into the Oil and Gas Law class.
By the time we got to fourth year where we had this choice at our disposal we were as eager or even more but when I asked one of my friends who had not opted to take the course and who was evidently skeptical to the fuss it was causing amongst our peers, he simply sneered and blurted.
“Who told you that Tullow or Total is going to give their enviable jobs to people that have done Oil and Gas Law from Uganda Christian University.”
“The people that will contend and eventually take those jobs are people that have taken their post graduate studies in Oil and Gas Law from universities like Oxford and Cambridge, not pretenders from Uganda Christian University.”
It was hurting to me who had taken the course though I thought the young man was simply acting the snob that he sometimes came off to be. But it seems his statements though insulting in a way carried some truth.
During the opening of the COMESA Oil and Gas summit, the issue of getting more Ugandans employed in the Oil and Gas sector was high on the Agenda with the State Minister of Economic Monitoring Henry Banyezaki saying “We want this business to benefit the locals and that is why we are promoting it. Ugandans have the brains, they have the skills. If you partner with the locals, you have a greater chance of succeeding compared to doing business otherwise.”
On the other hand, Elly Karuhanga, the President of Tullow in Uganda and Chairman of the Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum, decried the severe shortage of skilled oil and gas manpower in Africa. He said that the figures were indicating that there is a shortage of 11,000 petro-professionals in Africa.
Despite the glaring gap in local man power, it seems the oil companies are still not ready to recruit as many locally trained professionals. The students of Uganda Petroleum Institute Kigumba can attest to this fact. In a story done by the Weekly Observer Moses Onegi one of the students who pursued a course at the institute laments saying “I thought I would get a job immediately after finishing the course. I’m still looking for a job.”
“I am now well-qualified but can’t find a job,” he complains bitterly.
UPIK is an institute established in 2010 as part of a strategy to enhance local content in the nascent petroleum industry. The institute offers a diploma in technical skills related to oil and gas, followed by an additional six-months training in Trinidad and Tobago. The courses at UPIK are designed to impart high-level practical skills in areas such as drilling, pipe-fitting and health and safety, among others.
Out of the 28 pioneer students churned out of UPIK only two have been able to find jobs. The oil companies feel that the reason why this is so is because of the need for further training. Thus it does not surprise us that Loic Laurendel, the General Manager of Total E&P Uganda Ltd, urges some of these Ugandan students to go for further studies if they are to benefit from the available opportunities in the Oil and Gas sector.
“Some of these students should apply for scholarships for masters to go for further studies and specialize”