The high anticipation among locals of landing jobs in Ghana’s burgeoning oil industry, a hope championed by the Ghana Oil and Gas Service Providers Association, appears now a rather distant hope.
Some would-be employees undergoing basic skills training in Takoradi have told Myjoyonline.com they saved their entire four months earnings from their previous vocations and jobs to register for the training in anticipation of jobs at the downstream, however some government officials in the region think the people are harbouring wild expectations.
"I want them [the oil companies] to employ me so that I can work there to get money for my parents and my relatives and my family," Diana Hodo, a welding apprentice noted.
But the Chief Director of the Western Regional Coordinating Council, David Yaro, told journalists studying Ghana’s oil and gas sector with the support of the Revenue Watch Institute, that it would be difficult to estimate the number of jobs the sector will create, which according to him would only be determined by the "volume of works" to be done.
"Initially we may not have the expertise, we may even rely on expatriates, but the ultimate is to let the indigenes take over, so there is a package to be organized by the companies themselves when they are about to take off, it would be fashioned out."
He was however confident hundreds of indigenes would be employed in the area of surveying, digging trenches and laying pipes.
"When it comes to laying the pipelines, maybe over two hundred, three hundred people would be needed in digging the trenches, when it comes to clearing the land… we hope that some 50 or more people would be engaged to help clear the land, when it comes to surveying for crop compensation, some of the local chiefs would be involved. So it actually varies; it depends on which activity [is taking place]."
Asked how the region was equipping the local people with oil and gas-related skills, Mr Yaro said there were quite a number of activities except that they were not the typically structured training programmes for the people but in the form of sensitization.
That should be in sharp contrast and very, very far below the over hundreds of thousands of local content jobs the people expect.
And that is three years of Ghana’s oil find and a month into its production. Ghana’s Jubilee Field is said to contain over two billion barrels of crude oil, but the lack of any concerted steps to train the local people and equip them with basic skills to take up jobs in the downstream could be a disincentive.
However, Mr Yaro reiterated that his outfit has been doing weekly sensitization programmes on the oil and gas and what the people should expect. For instance, he said with the support of John Hopkins University, a three-day workshop was organized for opinion leaders and chiefs during which a number of "fallacies" raised by the people were addressed.
He also impressed upon the locals to take advantage of an existing nationwide district level scholarship scheme which supports students to further their education.
Meanwhile, a veteran journalist, Ebow Haizel-Ferguson, who lived two decades in Nigeria oil-rich River State, thinks Ghanaians are ready to take up to about 60% of local content jobs now. He has therefore been encouraging people to get prepared for the yawning opportunities.
In his small way, Mr Ferguson has set up a vocational institute, Sigma-Base Technical Services (Gh) Limited, which is training over one thousand persons in welding, fabrication and electrical engineering among other skills to join the bandwagon of oil sector workers.
The government’s policy framework on Local Content and Local Participation in Petroleum Activities insists: "Within 10 years from the commencement of a specific project, the level of local content will target at least 90% for such supplies and services identified by the Local Content Committee (LCC) as being a priority to Ghana."
Nevertheless, the above position runs counter to the government’s oil and gas advisor on local content, Tony Paul, who says attaining 90% local content jobs within 10 years is not feasible.
His assertion gives credence to the ill-preparedness of the Jomoro District, which is to host the about $1.2 billion gas plant to be located at Bonyere.
According to the Jomoro District Cordinator, Yaw Adu-Asamoah, the district’s main duty, now that it is to host the gas plant, is to facilitate the acquisition of land for the project. A draft design of the project shows about an 18.9 kilometer square area earmarked for the project.
It is feared that the lackadaisical attitude of Ghanaian leaders – from the assembly members through Members of Parliament, District Chief Executives to Regional Ministers – to train Ghanaians for the anticipated local content jobs would be a repeat of the oil curse that has plagued Nigeria.
Their curse has brought about conflicts involving government and oil companies on one side and rebel groups like the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MENDS) on the other hand leading to poverty, kidnap, rapes, diseases and deaths. And yet Ghana seems not be taking a cue from its close door neighbour, just about five hours drive from the capital, Accra.
David Yaro, the Chief Director of the Western Regional Coordination Council, maintained that at the tertiary level, Takoradi Polytechnic and the University of Mines and Technology, Tarkwa, both in the Western Region have tailored courses on the petroleum sector.
It is not clear however, if those gaining admission to pursue such programmes at that level include persons from the communities going to be the commercial hub of the oil and gas sector.