In 2009, the Uganda Petroleum Institute Kigumba (UPIK) was opened and in 2010, it admitted its first batch of students.
The institute was expected to train workers needed for the oil and gas sector as Uganda seeks to realise national or local content in the oil and gas sector. Makerere University also started training Ugandans in undergraduate petroleum geoscience and production studies in 2009, introducing a masters course in 2012.
Other institutes, including Makerere University Business School (Mubs), have also introduced their own oil and gas courses.
Ugandans expecting to benefit from working in the oil sector have signed up for these programmes. Uganda, as a nation, also expected the country and its nationals to benefit from the oil and gas sector with the ministry of Energy and Mineral Development’s National Content Study in the Oil and Gas Sector in Uganda, saying that national content in the oil and gas sector is expected to add value to Uganda’s economy, see the use of Ugandan raw materials and services produced by Ugandans and Ugandan firms and see that Ugandans participate in the oil industry for the overall benefit of all Ugandans.
The Petroleum (Exploration and Development) Act, 2013 (upstream law) and the Petroleum (Refining, Conversion, Transmission and Midstream Storage) Act (Midstream law) legislated on national content stipulating that goods produced in Uganda and services rendered by Ugandan citizens and service providers are given preference and that Ugandans are trained and employed by companies in the oil and gas sector.
National content is that important. How is Uganda faring in skilling her nationals to work in the oil sector? A recent Observer newspaper report that Tororo Cement was denying local employment, employing Indians instead had us thinking, again, about the issue of training Ugandans to realise national content.
We work with young people, some of whom are undertaking or have undertaken petroleum studies at Makerere University and Uganda Petroleum Institute Kigumba (UPIK), and the views they express on the lack of practical training at both institutes could lead one to say that Uganda is not yet thoroughly skilling her nationals to work in the oil sector.
Josephat Musasizi is an undergraduate student of Petroleum Geoscience and Production at Makerere University, who argues that some of the information obtained in class, is outdated. He also complains about the lack of equipment to train in practical skills.
Some of his fellow students are reportedly envious of the Engineering students who at least have 30-year-old equipment to enable practical skills’ acquisition. Yet this equipment is also too old to match that in today’s world. But these young people are envious of it!
Makerere is not the only institution to offer huge chunks of theoretical knowledge to its students. The UPIK graduate Moses Onegi, who benefitted from practical skilling through training in Trinidad and Tobago, says that “we [UPIK students] were better than our lecturers in Trinidad and Tobago on matters of theory. They were better at the practical”.
His colleague, Moses Arupei, had to moonlight across Uganda to acquire skills in plumbing, welding and fabrication.
“I acquired plumbing, welding and fabrication and [oil] production process skills from Nakawa Vocational Institute,” Arupei says.
It is important for Uganda to skill her nationals if she wants to realise national content in the oil and gas sector. If she does not, her nationals will end up like Joshua, a brilliant student who, on completing his Bachelors in Petroleum Geoscience and Production from Makerere, applied for a job with Baker Hughes.
He passed the theoretical interview in Dar es Salaam with flying colours but embarrassed himself in the practicals held in France.
He had never seen the machines he was expected to operate at the France interview. Realising his brilliance, however, he was given a six-months’ training opportunity in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Only then could he reapply for employment.
The writer is a Communications Officer with Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO).