Uganda has unveiled the first batch of highly trained artisans aimed at supporting the oil and gas sector in the country.
The 22 internationally certified welders were released Thursday on the second day of the 4th Oil and Gas summit in Kampala.
Mike Cleaver, the vice president of Chicago Bridge and Iron,an American construction corporation that spearheaded the training, said that the welders are some of the best artisans “you can find in East Africa and the continent in general.”
The 22 highly trained artisans, said Mr Cleaver, are trainers of trainees who are expected to transfer their skills to other welders.
The welders underwent a one year rigorous training both in Hoima, the focus of oil and gas activities, and at Uganda Petroleum Institute Kigumba.
The welders were then subjected to an independent verification of their welding knowledge and skills through an internationally recognised test administered by the Egyptian Welding Agency in conjunction with the American Welding Society, who flew in certification experts.
The welders were also subjected to another independent certification test by Veritas, an international certification firm.
With a fledgling oil sector in Uganda, questions are being raised whether the country has people with the right skills to drive the industry.
Observers say that Uganda may fail to benefit fully from its oil and gas the country has few trained professional in the sector.
Why Uganda needs highly trained artisans
In 2015, consultancy firm Mott MacDonald produced a report called “Capacity Needs Analysis for Oil and Gas Sector Skills in Uganda”.
The report notes that the main impediment to employing a larger share of Ugandans in the sector is a shortage of personnel with adequate practical experience and skills.
According to the study, over 1800 professional drivers of large commercial vehicles will be required only in this sector over the next 10 years.
Christian Schnurre from GIZ, a German development organisation operating in Uganda and also involved in skills development in the country says that whereas it is clear that there will be many job opportunities in the sector, the challenge is how many Ugandans will directly benefit from them.
“Our rationale was that practical skills training is vital in a country where the current conversation focuses heavily on national content policy, particularly in regard to the oil and gas sector,” he offers.