November 09, 2023
The Caribbean Policy Consortium (www.cpcaribbean.org), and the Guyana Business Journal (www.guyanabusinessjournal.com) hosted a Webinar –Transforming Guyana Season II, Episode VI: Workforce Development and the Emerging Guyanese Oil and Gas Economy, on Wednesday, November 08, 2023 now available on YouTube.
The recent Guyana Business Journal webinar, “Transforming Guyana, Season II, Episode VI: Workforce Development and the Emerging Guyanese Oil and Gas Economy,” sparked a crucial dialogue on Guyana’s unprecedented economic growth and the ensuing workforce challenges. The event featured a panel of experts, including Karen Abrams of STEM Guyana, Professor André Brändli, Laurent Stephane from the energy sector, David Lewis of Manchester Trade Ltd. Inc., and Terrence Blackman, the founder of Guyana Business Journal, who collectively emphasized the urgency of developing a skilled workforce to sustain the burgeoning oil and gas industry.
Guyana’s economy is surging, with a remarkable 98.4 percent growth in its oil and gas industry and a 59.5 percent overall expansion in the first half of 2023 alone. This growth brings to light the pressing need for skilled labor, as pointed out by David Lewis, who cautioned against conflating labor supply with skills supply and the tendency to prioritize traditional university education over vocational and technical training. Echoing this, André Brändli highlighted the significance of aligning the labor force with market demands through vocational training in public-private partnerships. You can find his presentation here.
Karen Abrams spoke on the unique skills gap in Guyana, noting the exodus of university graduates and the insufficiency of the current labor force to meet the demands of the oil and gas sector. She advocated for early youth engagement in technical industries to fuel national growth.
Laurent Stephane spoke from his experience in new oil economies, stressing the absence of oil and gas competencies and the unrealistic expectations of immediate prosperity from the sector. He advocated establishing sustainable training systems through local partnerships to ensure long-term skills development and autonomy.
The discussion laid bare the critical juncture at which Guyana stands, the immediate need for strategic workforce development, and the collective role of public-private partnerships in preparing Guyanese nationals for the transformative growth spurred by their oil and gas reserves.
- Karen Abrams, STEM Guyana
- André Brändli, Professor, Molecular Pathophysiology, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München,
- Laurent Stephane, Recruitment and Training Manager, Tilenga and EACOP (Uganda & Tanzania)
- David Lewis, Vice President, Manchester Trade Ltd. Inc. & Co-Chair, Caribbean Policy Consortium
- Terrence Blackman, Founder, Guyana Business Journal
- “We need to separate the issue of labor supply and demand in a country like Guyana versus skills supply and demand. Sometimes that gets caught up in a political debate.”
- “Particularly in the Caribbean we have had a history of overemphasizing the traditional university degree educational system and not so much what we’re seeing today in the 21st century technology driven economy of training in specific skill sets of doing things.”
- “Guyana needs new talent, skilled labor, now. Otherwise, many of these projects would just fall flat because you can’t afford it. And not every organization is going to be Exxon and Chevron that can bring in and take care of a couple of thousand of experts at the start up of a project and use that to launch. That’s not the case for everybody.”
- “Guyana today finds herself at a really critical juncture, poised on the brink of this irreversible economic transformation. Guyana’s oil and gas industry grew by 98.4 percent in the first half of 2023. The overall economy saw an expansion of about 59.5 almost 60 percent during the same period. A key challenge here will be the impact of Guyana’s labor market…[We must] be realistic about what is possible for a nation of 800,000 people. And think about how this actually could get done.”
- “I think there’s some useful messages not only just to Guyana but to many low- and middle-income countries that are focusing, in my opinion, far too much on the university track and neglecting the vocational and professional tracks which are absolutely important. Matching your labor force with the demand of the labor market is absolutely essential.”
- “A very important thing is this professional vocational track training is done in a public-private partnership. It doesn’t occur in a void where the public just sets up vocational schools. These are done together with companies. You can’t act in a void; you have to train people by bringing in companies to train these people and offering a wage, a salary, to these students.”
- “The skills gap that everyone has spoken about is really kind of unique in the Guyana context as well… We are in a situation where 80 percent of our university graduates leave.”
- “If all of our unemployed, under employed, discouraged workers, were upskilled and prepared, we still wouldn’t have enough people to maintain the growth that is projected in the oil and gas industry even.”
- “We’re so small. We have to make sure we’re capturing our young people early and piping them into that pipeline and inspiring them and motivating them and preparing them and giving them the self-confidence to determine, to answer the question, “in which industry would you like to contribute in Guyana,” and that answer should be, “in one of the technical industries.”
- “Plenty of new countries facing the same challenge: no or very limited oil and gas competencies available. And it is very difficult because not only you don’t have the people you don’t have the plants to train the people.”
- “In the meantime, you face huge expectations from the authorities and the people. These people are looking for prosperity and most of the people think there will be a miracle linked to oil and gas. And miracles doesn’t really exist…You have to be realistic.”
- “You need to develop partnerships in country with local institutions so that they are able to be part of the development of the people so that you do a competence transfer with these institutes and these institutes will be able, in the future, to train their own people… you need to develop a sustainable training system in country where you are autonomous at the end for training the new people.”
Terrence Blackman, Ph.D., Founder & CEO Guyana Business Journal email@example.com