Nationalisation programmes continue to dominate MENA workforce planning, driven by Government policy that promotes the employment of local nationals over expats. As such, the upskill of local nationals and competency based training programmes is set to play a huge role in the delivery of such plans. This is especially relevant in the oil and gas sector, where the need to engage and develop locals with a structured nationalisation plan in large international corporations is paramount in supporting regional stability.
I decided to speak to Will Follett, VP of Workforce Development and Training at Restrata in order to understand his experience of 2016 so far, what developments he has witnessed, and what predictions he has for the future of training for local nationals.
In your observations, which training programmes/skillsets are proving particularly popular in the region and what does this tell us about the direction of the sector?
WF: There is always a requirement for basic training elements when working on concessions (H2S, PTW, Confined Space, First Aid) as well as more specialist skills based on job function (eg Lifting Operations, MHE, Driver Training). However with a greater increase in aspects of security risk, Emergency Management and Crisis Response has seen an increase in demand.
At a time when oil prices are significantly reduced do you think regional oil and gas companies have slashed spending on skills and training? Do you think HSE standards in the industry will suffer because of the current downturn in the market?
WF: As with any downturn, training budgets are one of the first areas to see reductions, yet there have been numerous studies which quantifiably demonstrate the cost savings made through safety. Inevitably, a decrease in HSE Training will lead to a decrease in HSE standards on an individual basis, however, we are still seeing investment aiming to keep workers safe and towards true nationalisation.
How skilled would you say oil and gas workers in the Middle East and North Africa are, when compared to other major oil producing nations like North America or Russia? Do you think there is a lack of skilled labour in the region?
WF: With many organisations looking to develop local nationals, oil and gas workers are becoming increasingly more skilled. The knowledge and skill development is certainly well provisioned with training programmes in evidence across the regions. IOCs continue to play an important role in bringing experience and best practise; therefore knowledge transfer from more developed oil producing nations is also evident.
What according to you, are some of the key things to keep in mind for people working in hazardous conditions? How do you support clients with staff working in risky environments?
WF: It is important for clients to look closely at both sides of the risk bow tie, conducting an in-depth risk evaluation for all on site processes to develop a full mitigation strategy rather than implementing isolated plans for individual staff and processes.
One of the key strategies is ultimately training of staff - our training programs can be tailored to meet the individual requirements of a company, following support with the full risk evaluation, and courses cover both preventative and reactive skills in order to fully prepare them for working in hazardous conditions.
How do you think the demand for training and certification in the MENA region is likely to change over the next five to ten years? How do you think general skill levels in the regional oil and gas industry can be improved? What are your suggestions?
WF: Nationalisation programmes will continue to dominate workforce planning in the region, driven by Government policy that promotes the employment of nationals over expats. As such, the upskill of local Nationals and competency based training programmes will play a huge role in the delivery.
Blended learning will become more prominent with effective e-learning methodologies providing awareness and knowledge, coupled with instructor led training to provide core skills and practical application. This is a gradual process though, and thus the maintenance and development of international highly skilled and experienced labour still provides the principle route for knowledge transfer.
Will and his team at Restrata have extensive experience working in the Middle East and North Africa on projects that focus on developing the local workforce, most recently, being an agreement with Egyptian National Falcon to train several thousand airport security personnel over a six month period, and establish a Training Academy to support long-term sustainability.
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