From the oil services firms building steel pallets in Takoradi, to marketing firms distributing fuel to industry, Ghana’s petrol companies offer attractive employment opportunities to the upwardly mobile populace. Prince Charles Dedjoe, the executive chairman of the Chadeco Group, told OBG, “The oil and gas sector is poised for growth, but the availability of qualified human capital is lagging behind. More local training facilities will be needed, but that will decrease operational costs in the longer run.” The government and aid organisations are investing millions in education to close the skills gap, and the private training market is booming.

PUBLIC PRIORITY: The government has prioritised investment in technical schools to boost the engineering skills of the country and move toward the goal of sourcing 90% local content. “We need to have more Ghanaians involved in the industry, particularly at the support-services level where there are greater opportunities for job creation,” Stephen Kemah, the managing director of Genesis Oil and Gas Services, told OBG.

Technical programmes designed to serve Ghana’s mining industry offer a strong foundation for expansion into oil and gas training. The University of Mines and Technology, a Takordai-based school serving students from across West Africa, has received government and private funding to establish programmes for the oil and gas industries. Further, as part of a $38m concessionary loan from the World Bank, the government launched a human capital development project in 2011. The project supports petroleum and petrochemical engineering teaching and research at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology, and vocational training at three technical institutes.

PRIVATE SUPPORT: The Takoradi Polytechnic, which received World Bank funds, opened a $6m petrochemicals and hydraulics training laboratory in September 2012. The Jubilee partners contributed $3.5m to the school. Much of the funding for workforce training comes from large companies working in the field. General Electric will finance capacity building and training as part of the planned investment in a 1000-MW thermal power complex. The future operator of Ghana’s gas processing plant will be required to train local staff. Oil and gas services company, Schlumberger, has donated upwards of $2m to training programmes 2007.

While big investments are led by multinationals in the sector and government, foreign universities and private education companies and have rushed into Ghana to train would-be hydrocarbons employees. Education is forecast to see more investment in the coming years.

As training options have proliferated, variation in the efficacy and credibility of private programmes has been noted. Daniel Baffour-Awuah, the executive director of the Council for Technical, Vocational Education and Training, told local media in September 2012 that regulation was necessary “to eliminate mushroom training institutions and bring sanity into the system”.

FUTURE: In the short term, training programmes are unlikely to prepare enough Ghanaians to fill the ranks of the upstream oil sector. Skills requirements are high and operating budgets are large, meaning foreign employees can be hired and transferred to in-country operations when necessary. “There is the challenge that we are operating in deep water, which is expensive. We have to keep a very high level of service quality and delivery, with very high efficiencies to make the projects work,” said Christian Ibeagha, Schlumberger’s oilfield services manager. “We knew there would be high operating costs for this project because we have had to bring people in from outside.”

Reports suggest fewer than 800 Ghanaians work the upstream sector, but midstream and downstream sectors are expected to benefit from Ghana’s training push. The oil-marketing firm Zen Petroleum, for example, has been constrained by lack of human resources.

William Tewiah, Zen’s managing director, has found it difficult to find skills for a variety of specialist positions, ranging from accounting, to engineering. “We’d like to expand into West Africa and into retail outlets, Tewiah told OBG. “But you need people to grow with.”