Two years on: Exxon business centre on a mission to make access to training easier

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A training course being conducted at the Centre for Local Business Development in Georgetown, Guyana.

The Centre for Local Business Development (CLBD), which was established back in July 2017 to help build the capacity of Guyanese businesses to better position themselves for the oil and gas industry, is on a mission to make training programmes more accessible to the growing number of businesses utilising its services across the South American country.

This objective will be achieved through several projects that the Centre has in the pipeline, including the development of computer-based online courses.

Patrick Henry

As they approach their second anniversary, Project Director of CLBD, Patrick Henry sat down with OilNOW and provided an update on how the Centre has been progressing in the fulfillment of its mandate of helping to make Guyanese businesses more competitive and enabling them to enter the oil and gas industry.

“We initially did a set of analytics of what was the baseline in 2017 in Guyana and started to develop and deliver a series of programmes to help businesses,” Henry stated.

One of the programmes expected to be rolled out in a matter of two months is a computer-based training programme. He explained, “We’re in the process of designing a computer-based training course. So, the offshore oil and gas course has been running. We’ve taken it into the regions on a number of occasions and run the course there. However, we want to make it so it’s more accessible and we feel that we can launch that through our website and on a platform in coming months.”

He noted that the details of the course are currently being finalized, adding, “…once we get that done, we’ll do a roll out and let everybody know about that.”

“The idea right now is to allow those businesses and persons outside of Georgetown that haven’t had the opportunity to get a course in the region when we’ve been there to be able to take this course. It’s broken up into 15-minute segments. It’s six segments of 15-minutes long so people can take their time and do it when they’re able to do it…they don’t have to come to the Center, they don’t have to come to a specific course so they can really access it to their convenience,” the Director related.

This training, it was noted, will be geared at providing neutral information and industry-based updates that will allow businesses to make decisions based on the industry’s development. “Again, just making things easier for businesses to get information,” Henry told OilNOW.

Hundreds of businesses benefiting

Since the establishment of the Centre in 2017, hundreds of businesses and individuals have benefitted from training and seminars.

“The first programmes that we ran were a series of three-hour seminars,” Henry recapped. These seminars surrounded the nature of offshore oil and gas operations and provided an overview of developments in Guyana.

Another opportunity that businesses benefited from was a ‘Procurement for Local Suppliers’ course which was aimed at helping businesses in Guyana understand how the procurement process works in the oil and gas sector, as well as seminars on Health, Safety and Security, and the Environment (HSSE), which were geared towards helping businesses understand what is expected of them in terms of HSSE.

“We view those seminars as allowing businesses to make smart investment decisions, allowing businesses to really understand what was happening, how they could get involved and what it meant to be involved,” Henry reflected. He went on to say, “Since we started those seminars, we have had about 2500 people go through them. Some people take multiple seminars, some people take just one but the demand has been extremely high and extremely heavy.”

He also pointed to the Supplier Registration Portal that was developed and launched. “That portal allows businesses to come in, register, explain what they can do for the oil and gas sector and allows ExxonMobil and the Prime Contractors to find them and go out to them and ask for Expressions of Interest when goods or services are being bid out,” Henry reminded.

Asked about how the portal is being received, an optimistic Henry disclosed, “To date, we have about 1700 Guyanese businesses in that and so it’s a pretty robust portal where continually new businesses come up, pop up in the sense of partnerships or joint ventures that are forming in the economy and they’re registering so that number continues to grow.”

Improving the standards

As Guyana moves towards oil production in 2020, there has been increased interest by international companies that are looking to establish ties in Guyana. In view of this, the CLBD has been looking to help local businesses to improve their operations and standards.

“For those businesses that need to upgrade processes and procedures within their businesses, we offered a series of courses through our local partners Empertec and IPED around Supply Chain Management and Human Resource Management and Financial Management,” Henry told OilNOW.

He added, “About 100 businesses have taken those courses. The courses are much longer, they’re about four months long. They’re also about three hours a day. So, we offered seminars, quick three hours…come in, learn some basic information, or longer courses that were really intended to get firms in a position to upgrade systems and practices.”

In keeping with the need for improved standards, the Centre started an ISO 9001 mentoring programme. Reflecting on the development of the programme, Henry said, “The idea around ISO 9001 was compliance to international quality assurance standards. The thought at the time was businesses could become compliant to that, and that would allow the oil and gas companies to really be able to work with them and upgrade systems, and put systems on top of those that they need for their work.”

This programme was well-received as Henry disclosed that the process “kind of took on a life of its own” with a high demand from companies.

“…But also, the first wave of companies really wanted to get certified so we’ve had three companies go through the process and get certified. We have twelve firms now that are at some stage in a pipeline of work—either just starting or in process to be audited for certification,” he informed OilNOW.

The mentoring process takes about 200 hours of Center time to get a business ready, however, the Director emphasised that it requires much more investment from the business side, saying, “They have to change systems, procedures, train staff, and adhere to new standards so it’s a big investment from businesses to do that.”

Making connections

These improvements come in useful as the Centre also facilitates the creation of business linkages between local companies and international entities.

“We did a lot of work in 2018 around business linkages. A lot of international companies were coming to Guyana, looking for Guyanese partners. We tried to help make that process so that Guyanese companies understood what was going on and how they could best utilize the interest internationally,” the Director explained.

Last October, the Center partnered with the Newfoundland Gas Association, to host an event where a group of companies from Newfoundland came to Guyana and a group of Guyanese companies were identified by the Center to engage with these foreign companies.

“The Center gave them what’s called a ‘pitch course’. So, a 30-second elevator speech, a three-minute ‘this is what our business does’…understanding what a unique value proposition is and how you have that so when they were talking to the businesses from Newfoundland, they could really  go in and understand what it is they were looking for in partnership and how they could partner,” Henry proudly shared.

Moving forward, the Director shared that the Centre is looking at more ways that they can increase their reach, and expand the programmes and services being offered to Guyanese businesses.