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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Bridging the skills gap in Nigeria’s petroleum industry

More than five decades after Nigeria formally commenced crude oil exportation and production, and over three decades since the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) was established mainly for creating a significant pool of skilled Nigerians for the developing the country’s petroleum industry, it is deplorable that the Nigerian manpower content in Africa’s largest oil and gas industry remains at 40 percent.
Stakeholders have given reasons for this scenario. Allegations range from the preference of foreign oil companies for expatriate personnel instead of Nigerian personnel, whether they are competent or not, to claims by the oil companies that there are not enough Nigerians with the necessary technical skills suited for a technology-intensive oil industry.
The inability of Nigeria’s educational system to provide well equipped and adequate domestic technical manpower evidently substantiates the latter claim. The dynamics of the political and economic environment in which these institutions operate is partly to blame. Appointments to top positions in universities have been politicized.
The critical role of the Nigerian university system in generating efficient and adequate manpower capacity for the diverse sectors of the Nigerian economy cannot be over-emphasised. For decades the system’s ability to perform this role has been increasingly undermined by poor funding of the universities. Hence, their inability to acquire updated technology for training students and the poor teaching and research environment which has not been able to attract high-flying members of faculty with proportionate town and gown technical exposure.

It is not uncommon to read and hear employers of labour in the country expressing their dissatisfaction with the quality of graduates from Nigerian universities. Severally, practitioners in the petroleum industry have described Nigeria’s geology and geophysics graduates as “half-baked and unemployable” as they hardly comprehend the practical aspects involved in oil exploration and processing. Similarly, engineering students from Nigerian universities have had much difficulty competing globally because the academic curriculum and laboratories are obsolete, and the teaching faculty largely lack he required industry exposure.

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