Nigeria’s oil and gas sector is battling to acquire a skilled workforce due to inadequate training facilities at universities and reduced central government expenditure into developing these critical skills.
Multinational corporations operating in Nigeria have identified this as a reason for employing fewer Nigerians in the sector.
Some indigenous oil companies have argued that Nigerians have the required knowledge to function in the space.
Emeka Eni, chairman of the Petroleum Technology Association of Nigeria said the university curriculum was not tailored to develop skills.
“The curriculum was designed to create civil servants as the focus was on pure sciences and as we evolved it became obvious that engineering and technology were not necessarily the top priorities when major universities were formed,” Eni told CNBC Africa.
“It has taken a few decades to get to the idea that we have to grow capacity. We churn out a lot of graduates every year, but the question is, how prepared are these graduates to meet the needs of the oil industry and of the larger economy.”
Eni called for more focus on practical education.
“There has been much focus on theoretical education and less on practical education. The challenge is that even polytechnic which should give much emphasis on practical exposure are making moves to becoming universities.”
One such place that is doing this is the Institute of Petroleum Studies. According to Mike Onyekonwu from the Institute of Petroleum Studies, its curriculum was designed to train work engineers and not classroom engineers.
“We get the software being used in the industry, so most of our graduates will be ready to work when they graduate,” he said.
Trainee engineers welcome access to practical skills at school saying this saves companies money and time they use in skilling graduates.
Tope Fadoyeni, engineer in training said, it was a very good idea of bringing theory and practical together. He added that the industry will not have to waste a lot of money and months investing in training graduates.
The vice chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt, Joseph Ajienka said developing capacity goes beyond the review of curriculum.
“The learning environment is not conducive for high productivity as everything boils down to funding. We have decaying infrastructure, laboratory that is not functional anymore and we are experiencing capital flight as we are sending students to be educated in other countries,” he said.