Education is a lifelong endeavour. Guyana is launching into unchartered territory with the emergence of its petroleum sector. All Guyanese are learning and adapting in order to be relevant in the petroleum sector.

Persons have, already, taken advantage of Guyana’s imminent economic boom by offering unaccredited and uncertified education and training opportunities. This edition of Government in Action identifies some credible avenues available to help build capacity, boost businesses, and even capitalise on opportunities in the petroleum sector.

Direct access to oil and gas

The Centre for Local Business Development (CLBD) is the official entity for procurement within the petroleum industry. The Centre offers training, mentoring, and networking opportunities for Guyanese businesses. It helps to prepare the business community for partnerships with the international companies with basis in Guyana, potential investors and those tangential to the petroleum sector. The Centre is funded by ExxonMobil and its partners, which means that all procurement opportunities from ExxonMobil are sent via the CLBD.

Deputy Country Director of the CLBD, Dr. Natasha Gaskin-Peters explains: “The mandate of the Centre is to build the capacity and competitiveness of local Guyanese businesses. We do this through a three-pronged approach. There is training… There is also mentorship as well as networking. We have seminars in procurement for the oil and gas industry, in health and safety, as well as offshore oil and gas. Then we have business courses which really help to streamline the capacity building of the local Guyanese businesses. We have these in financial management, supply chain management, as well as human resource management… and these are all offered free of charge to the local Guyanese businesses.

Dr. Gaskin-Peters leads the seminars, which usually last about three hours, and teaches the basics, key terms, project life cycles, and business opportunities within the sector. The Deputy Country Director explained that while businesses come to the Centre with a desire to break into the petroleum sector, business growth does not only benefit oil and gas. Rather, those businesses strengthen Guyana’s economy and increase its sustainability.

“Over the last two years… we [have had] over 600 vendors working in the industry. This is part of the hard work that we have put in [to] doing gap assessments of the businesses, looking at the need in terms of where the opportunities lie in the sector and how we can really match the local businesses to the opportunities,” she said.

Guyanese businesses, she added, are more than willing to put in the work to build their capacity. Their hard work is already paying off.

“We have seen tremendous growth in the Guyanese businesses. While we’ve put in the effort, the local businesses have also put in the effort. They’ve put in time [and] dedication; they send their staff to training. They’re part of the mentorship programme. They come to our networking activities and they have been saying to us that [they] have seen tremendous growth in terms of [their] businesses. We can think beyond the oil and gas sector. These businesses are building their capabilities for oil and gas [and] becoming more competitive but of course, we have to think about the broader economy.… Making these businesses internationally competitive really supports broader economic growth here in Guyana,” she said.

While Guyanese businesses have good systems, the CLDB Director explained that their documentation was often lacking. The Centre, therefore, prioritises the documentation and implementation of each business’ policies to meet international standards. Dr. Gaskin-Peters encourages Guyanese business owners to think of the wider economic impact and diversify.

“We really need to ensure that we support diversification of our economy and this speaks to the business at a cross-sectoral approach and includes smaller businesses. It is important that we promote equitable growth among the Guyanese business community and this is very important to us at the Centre. This is why we do not discriminate against any business. We’re here to support all Guyanese businesses to ensure that they improve their competitiveness to support an economy in the future,” she said.

Technical and vocational training

Persons interested in boosting their personal education can turn to the Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (CTVET) for guidance. Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is often stigmatised, playing second fiddle to its counterpart, traditional academia. The Council, on the contrary, uses industry cues to design a curriculum to produce professionals who can fill the specific gaps within that industry.

Assistant TVET Officer in the Assessment and Certification unit, Mr. Mark Roberts explains: “We really encourage a relationship with the institution. We encourage the institutions to have a relationship with industries. This whole system of Technical and Vocational Education and Training is really industry-driven. It is fed by labour marketing information. The training that goes in [within our institutions] is a [direct] consequence of what labour market provides. So, if industry demands that there is a need for more skilled welders or mechanics that is what is done at the institutions.”

At the end of every course, participants receive certification that makes them competitive both in and out of Guyana.

“The CVQ [which] is the Caribbean Vocational Qualification is given by the training organisations across the Caribbean. Various Ministers of Education have agreed [on] one certification process. Coming out of the Caribbean Single Market Economy, we have the Caribbean Vocation Qualification… Individuals who have completed a training programme in any of the institutions that have been registered with the Council will be issued with a CVQ,” he said.

The CVQ is recognised across the Region and internationally, in countries like Australia and Canada. The Council does regular industry surveys to ensure the graduates are 100 per cent relevant in the work place.

Mr. Seon Hamer, Monitor Inspector in the Standards and Curriculum Unit explains: “The Council and its partners have conducted, in the past, a labour market intelligence survey. That intelligence survey is expected to capture the kind of information that [allows us] to do forecasting so that we are not in the business of training persons in areas where the need does not exist for them to be absorbed in the industry.”

The combination of theory in the classroom and practical experience in the work place, Mr. Hamer explained, is attractive to trainees and often, they return to the Centre to pursue higher levels of certification.

“The competency-based modularised approach to teaching and learning allows for the students to be engaged in [the] industry within the first three months while they are [enrolled] at the institution. That would allow the students to have hands-on [training] as to what obtains within the industry and act as a form of motivation. When they return to the institution, they’re eager to complete their training so that they can get back into the world of work,” he said.

Mr. Hamer added that while the obvious choice of training currently may be in the fields related to oil and gas, students should pursue their ‘dream’ careers as Guyana’s overall economic growth will create diverse opportunities in all sectors.

“The oil and gas industry is new to Guyana. As a result, many of the skillsets that are required might not be readily available here in Guyana. [Young people] should not feel as though they cannot be a part of what is happening. The truth is with all of the expansion and the development that is expected, once first oil gets here, a number of other areas will pop-up in terms of creating opportunities for employment. Whatever your dream is, whatever your goal is, whatever you have that passion [for] just follow your dreams. Whether it is to be a plumber, to be a carpenter, to be an engineer, accountant, lawyer, just follow your dream and ensure that you do your best. As the industry evolves, there will be an opportunity for all of us,” he said.

Administrative and Finance Officer at the CTVET office, Mrs. Kelona Carmichael-Clarke, who is also enrolled in the TVET certified furniture-making course, spoke of the rigour of the programme. TVET, she said, fills some of the most practical gaps in the lives of young people.

“A lot of people look at the programmes and think [that] they are for people who are not really academically gifted, or they are drop-outs, or they are delinquents, but these courses are very challenging. They are very, very challenging and I was surprised… My main reason for doing the course is I have a creative part of me that I like to channel. To be very honest, I like nice things that I can’t always afford. So, my idea going in was that if I can’t afford it, if I can’t buy it, I’m going to build it and that’s basically what I’ve been doing. Technical Vocational Education and Training empowers you that way. It empowers you to be able to create what you want. It promotes self-sufficiency and that’s all about what I’m for,” she said.

The programmes offered by TVET institutions are credible and certified. Not only can the programmes give you direct access to the industries of your choice, but both the CLBD and CTVET continue to modify their programme lists to benefit all participants.
The CLBD is extending and diversifying their seminar offerings for more well-rounded learning experiences while CTVET has already laid the groundwork for career guidance and programmes, inclusive of the prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR). Guyana’s economy is growing rapidly and these are two avenues which can be utilised to access education, training and certification in order to benefit from opportunities in the petroleum.

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