In its pursuit of a robust Local Content Policy, Guyana must be cognizant of its limited human resources while pushing for industry stakeholders to meet high targets. This point was recently made by Dr. Terrence R. Blackman, an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Medgar Evers College, USA.
In his most recent commentary published by OilNOW, Dr. Blackman cautioned that such a conundrum could result in human resources being pulled from other industries, thereby resulting in negative economic impacts.
Further to this, the Associate Professor noted that Guyana has to be aware of the fact that some skill sets for the oil industry are quite technical and therefore cannot be developed in-country overnight. He said the authorities must consider what skills could be practically or realistically developed to meet the needs of the oil sector and set local content targets accordingly.
Making reference to the provisions of the draft document, Dr. Blackman pointed out that there are high targets for highly technical services in the industry, such as front-end engineering and geophysical services, which have a 90% local content requirement within ten years of the licensing agreement. “We caution that these jobs are incredibly sophisticated and are hard to fill with people of any nationality,” he stated.
In order to ensure that Guyana reaches these thresholds, Dr. Blackman said, “We will have to invest heavily in developing an oil and gas technical training infrastructure. Guyana will not create a training infrastructure with the desired capacity over a single election cycle.”
The Associate Professor reminded that the government has already admitted that many of the targets are a bit unrealistic (i.e., 30 percent Guyanese-made steel and seismic analysis starting next year etc.) and will be revised to reflect Guyana’s actual circumstances.
Dr. Blackman said, “It is also worth noting some of the risks of resource shifting that poorly articulated targets can have—with a situation of limited human capital, having targets that pull all the business/human resources towards oil will hurt other industries as has been the case of resource-rich developing nations.”
With this in mind, the Associate Professor said it will require intent and coordination at the highest levels of government and education, hence his recommendation for the establishment of a Ministry of Employment and Training Services (METS) which would work with business and industry, particularly the emerging Oil and Gas sector, to build a trained and prepared workforce by providing employment and training services to Guyanese and Guyanese businesses, thereby advancing opportunities for employment and economic stability for communities in the country.
Such a Ministry he posited, would operate a countrywide online labor exchange system that would connect job seekers and employers in each of the 10 regions. He said that it would also oversee and administer job centers across the country to assist job seekers with employment related services.
Concluding on this front, the Associate Professor articulated that such a ministry could provide the specialized initiatives aimed at integrating women, rural youth and indigenous populations, into the economic mainstream of Guyana.