By Kyle Greenham
College of the North Atlantic’s work in the country of Guyana may be continuing well into the future.
Although CNA’s initial partnership, helping Linden Technical Institute develop an up-to-date heavy equipment operating and maintenance program, has come to an end – there are now further opportunities on the horizon.
With Guyana’s recent discovery of off shore oil reserves, the country is preparing for a major shift. It is a change coincidentally similar to when Newfoundland and Labrador discovered its oil reserves.
“It’s a slow process with many hurdles,” said Canada’s High Commissioner to Guyana and Suriname, Pierre Giroux. “The big difference from Newfoundland is that there is a lack of an industrial economy here. The jump is going to be much bigger.”
Giroux says Guyana is currently projected to develop 1.4 million barrels of oil in its reserves, and while this helps the country become more self-sufficient economically, the government must also recognize outside funding and grant money is going to become much more limited.
“The public still sees itself as being a have-not country. It’s a huge mental shift,” said Giroux.
While on their September trip to Guyana, representatives of CNA and the Marine Institute met with various stakeholders involved in Guyana’s oil and gas sector to discuss future opportunities for the college, specifically in developing up-to-date safety training.
“Exxon is looking into the specifics of what training is needed,” said Bobby Gossai, president and CEO of the Guyana Oil and Gas Association. “We have to assess people who are trained, but don’t have certification, and adjust the training to what experience they need.
“We want to see local employment reach out to 50 per cent and beyond.”
“We have the best welders in the world, they’re just not certified,” added Alan Fernandes, operations and technical director at John Fernandes Ltd, a Guyanese shipping company.
The oil and gas group were reassured by CNA’s continued presence, and agreed first-hand training is needed to ensure the sector is dominated by local workers.
CNA’s Vice President of Industry and Community Engagement, Robin Walters, noted that in the early stages of oil and gas development in this province, the employment rate of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians was very low, as they were exploring a new industry sector. However, now the province can boast substantial employment figures for its residents working in the offshore projects.
“Guyana is now where Newfoundland and Labrador was in the late 1970’s,” said Walters. “We were in the infancy stages of our oil and gas development and had to start identifying what our needs were. With an untrained workforce you have to prioritize the areas of greatest concern, like safety, to the more logistical issues like marine cooking. There are a number of areas to explore and the college has the ability to meet those training needs.”
Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, Guyana’s Minister of Education, also met with CNA and High Commissioner Giroux. Roopnaraine says the Guyanese government understands education is central to the country’s newly discovered resource.
“We are very conscious of our responsibilities,” said Roopnaraine. “If things don’t work in the Ministry of Education, they won’t work anywhere else. Without skilled workers, we are fighting in the dark.”
The strong oil and gas sector will have significant impacts on infrastructure and future developments in the country. The group recognized that many areas of education will be expanding in the coming years.
“Oil employment is the specialty, but it will bring further investments in the country,” Giroux said. “Building talents in new sectors is the main goal.”
“It is a long road and the burden is heavy, but we are up for the challenge,” said Roopnaraine.
The college looks forward to exploring further opportunities through Ministry of Education, Canadian High Commission and the TVET Council, and feels it can bring its history and expertise in industry training on the heels of a successful project at LTI.
“It was humbling to hear from our partners in Linden that relationships are forever,” said Walters.