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Stepping Up Energy Education and Training in Africa

Updated: Jan 29


Africa is now as “open” for business as it has ever been. There are numerous exciting energy opportunities across the continent, ranging from the massive gas discoveries in Mozambique, to new frontiers in Senegal and the growing need for clean power.


Scottish companies that are prepared to offer comprehensive, structured, and transparent education and training in Africa can gain advantage as it provides an effective and efficient way in which to promote their services as well as showing commitment to the long-term sustainability of the sector. and gas prices requiring companies to drastically address the cost base, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic.


Energy Education and Training in Africa


In terms of the initial skills mapping, best practice is the development of a multi-year implementation master plan that defines manning, training, and competency requirements at all levels within the local content pool of white, blue, gold, purple, grey, black and green collar workforces to maximise benefits from the investment and optimum utilisation of competency.


This approach to education and training supports a steady progression for staff and ensures that when they go into a job, they are fully competent to work in a safe and efficient manner. This was done with great effect in Chad and Cameroon, where a structured and transparent competency programme allowed for the former PSN, a Scottish energy services company acquired by Wood in 2010, to achieve national content percentages that were in the high 90% range in both countries. It also takes significant costs out of a sector that need to cut costs and is an effective and efficient way to address education and skill development requirements.


This is especially the case in countries that are in early stages of developing their natural resources, where careful consideration is needed to ensure that the employment opportunities are maximised and sustained in the long term. This is where the master plan can bring efficiencies to the process. Assuming that the energy sector is the first mover, many of the people trained for the construction phase can be moved to other sectors as they start to develop and expand, such as petrochemicals and power. The skills are largely transferable, and the training efforts and actual experience gained should not

be lost.


During the construction phase, efforts need to be made to identify the best talent and this talent must be trained to become the operators and maintainers of the facilities. Utilising this skilled group through commissioning and start up will give them vital experience and position them well to move into long term operations.


Considerable effort should be made to ensure that the local supply chain develop the skills required to meet the demands that will be required. This ranges from catering, to the supply of PPE, specialised services, and all that sits in-between. These areas are often forgotten but are vital to the long-term sustainability of the sector.


In order to achieve the best results, a national plan of qualifications should be developed for the training of a qualified labour force. Universities and industrial schools should be set up, or their curriculum expanded to encompass trade, engineering, technology and management qualifications and skill sets across the country with a defined number of intakes per year. In effect the government should establish national standards that become the required minimum requirements for industry across various sectors. This consistency would avoid the some of the pitfalls we have seen in Scotland and other jurisdictions, where differing standards from operator to operator have seen significant unnecessary overspend in the training and development of people.


Scotland’s Education and Training Expertise


Scotland has a global reputation for education and skills training in the energy sector with many of our training providers, including private sector, universities and colleges, having experience of working across Africa. Scotland also has an excellent reputation for “teach the teachers” models that create vital partnerships with African governments, operators and supply chain.


Notwithstanding this, the biggest provider of education and training programmes tends to be the operators and supply chain companies themselves, with a heavy reliance on “on the job” training, the success of which has been varied as companies have applied different approaches. For a considerable period, there was also a view from some that you could not effectively develop national employees and national content as the education standards were comparatively poor. It has been proven that properly structured education and training can have tremendous results.


More specialised training is increasingly delivered using technology and apps. There are several Scottish companies that are taking the lead in this area, three great examples being:


· Triton Marine provides specialist online marine training courses and simulator – they are the first of their kind in the globe. Their simulated training covers jack ups, semi submersibles, DP operations and FPSO operations. They can affectively simulate a complete jack up rig relocation as you sit in your own home – no travel required.


· Interactive Health Ltd (IHL) works with expert healthcare practitioners in the NHS in Scotland and academics in Scottish universities to develop smart app mobile learning and mobile health programmes for cell phones. Well@ practice supports healthcare practitioners working at remote locations and is designed to reduce absenteeism in the workplace. As a response to COVD- IHL has developed a smart app (Well@ Isolation) to support people experiencing stress and anxiety as a result of spending prolonged periods of time under lock-down. Another product AptTM designs, develops and produces mobile learning programmes aimed at developing leaders in the African energy, financial and healthcare sectors.


· For anyone working on an oil rig anywhere in the world, the progression from roustabout to driller to tool pusher can take many years of continual education, training, on the job experience and cost thousands, even millions, of dollars. Norwell Edge, subsidiary of the Aberdeen-based Norwell Engineering, one of the world’s most successful drilling and well engineering firms, has developed a low-cost e-learning training platform that can give many Africans who cannot afford training access to the industry. Many ambitious Africans from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria and Ghana who want to get into oil and gas have now tested Norwell Edge’s e-learning programme and given positive feedback.


Conclusion


Amidst the continent’s rapid growth, circumstances are also forcing energy companies in Africa to take a more proactive and progressive approach to education and training. These include local legislation becoming ever more prescriptive over the need to develop national employees, the turbulent oil and gas prices requiring companies to drastically address the cost base, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic.

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