by Stanley Opara
Stakeholders in the country’s oil and gas sector have expressed concern over the dearth of manpower within the system as well as the underutilisation of the available workforce.
Some players in the sector, it was learnt, now preferred to bring in expatriates to work under the guise that Nigerians were incompetent. But some stakeholders in the sector still maintained that there was a huge waste of manpower in the sector currently owing to underemployment of qualified Nigerians .
According to Mr. Dele Awolala of KPMG Advisory Services Nigeria, the evolving nature of work in the sector is largely driven by changes in the global economy, generational shifts and technological advancements.
He said with the evolution of the global economy, characterised by the credit crunch, working in the sector had generally become more challenging and had increased pressure on profit margins.
This, he noted, had resulted in greater need for more organisational effectiveness, workforce efficiency and competitiveness.
According to him, firms now need younger, more socially-connected workforce requiring specialised solutions.
He said emerging technologies in the workplace had necessitated continuous organisational restructuring and increased focus on knowledge-base that promotes productivity.
This knowledge base, he stressed, must be strategically designed and continuously enriched to promote motivation and engagement, among others.
“To bridge the expectations gap, there is an urgent need to take another look at the fundamental job design within the industry,” he added.
A look at the employee value proposition by organisations, he noted, should be built around a framework that would attract and speak to the needs of both current employees and potential recruits; help retain talent; and designed to appeal to organisation reputation, company culture, work environment, and corporate citizenship.
This approach, he added, would help re-engage a disenchanted workforce, create a strong “people brand”, and improve the commitment of new hires.
For the oil and gas sector, he said the employee value proposition of firms should help attract the talents that were needed.
“With the impending passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, the oil and gas industry will attract significant investments resulting in increase in manpower needs. In the industry, scarce skills and retiring employees, also set the need for replacement,” he said.
The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ewalen Corporate and Image Services, Mr. John Ehi, said one of the challenges of the petroleum industry in Nigeria was inadequate workforce .
This, he noted, was as relevant as issues like: security; unstable legislative and fiscal environment; and physical infrastructural challenges.
“To permit the industry to surmount these challenges and meet public expectations, there is the need for people in adequate numbers, with requisite levels of education, skills and experience,” he said.
Ehi said training and continuous education, mentoring, job rotation for wide experience (to meet international standards), and continuous production of new talents to face challenges that are permanently evolving, remained cardinal for the industry.
He said there was the need for retention of skilled and experienced people in the industry, and government policy was important in managing human capital asset in the industry, which was very strategic.
Ehi said, “There should be the generalisation of a system of volunteer retired petro-technical staff (for instance) to teach in our educational system; rotation, staff exchanges between public and private sector, attachment programmes (all help to increase the pool of skilled and experienced professionals for the industry).
“We need the ‘Empower the Teachers’ type of programmes aimed to increase the pool of high-quality graduates that should inject new perspectives, home-grown creativity and a problem-solving approach for a permanent renewal of the industry.
“We should also encourage human capital training through formal ‘training passports’ and preparation as part of projects approval requirements; and follow-up of this mechanism.”
Speaking on the petrochemical sub-sector of the oil and Gas industry, the President, Nigerian Society of Chemical Engineers, Dr. John Erinne, said the potential of the industry in a nascent economy like Nigeria gifted with enormous oil and gas resources could be readily expressed in terms of gainful resource utilisation, value addition, wealth creation, job creation and know-how acquisition.
He said Nigeria had huge comparative advantage to develop its petrochemical sub-sector and give jobs and hope to teeming young people leaving universities and polytechnics every year, but had not taken the bold steps to do so; hence, the problems in the industry.
Erinne said the development of the petrochemical sub-sector as well its innate capacities, remained a significant index in the industrialisation pursuit of any economy, and the challenge of underemployment or unemployment was negatively skewed with respect to industrialisation.
A former, Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Dr. Thomas John, who recently spoke to our correspondent, expressed dismay over the level of manpower underutilisation in the sector.
He said, “When chemical engineers begin to seek employment in banks, even as currency note counters, because traditional chemical engineering jobs are no longer available, then you know that the concept of versatility of a profession has been pushed too far.”
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