Energy Chamber president Roger Packer says the newly opened National Energy Skills Centre (NESC) Drilling Academy is a dream come true for the local energy sector which is currently facing a labour shortage. Speaking at the official opening of the $18.8 million state-of-the-art facility at Ste Madeleine on Monday night, Packer said it offered young people an opportunity to gain skills for employment in a high paying sector.
“Young people from the secondary school level, with three to five O’levels…those young people can get high paying jobs and can move away from crime. “With 12 rigs in the country there are lots of opportunities,” he said.
Packer congratulated Tertiary Education Minister Fazal Karim for his vision in setting up the training facility. He said the Drilling Academy presents an opportunity for students to market themselves locally and internationally. He added that T&T already had a reputation which was second to none in the global energy industry and “what we have to do is re-establish that”.
Packer said the Drilling Academy came at an opportune time for the local industry: “In 2010 we had one off shore rig operating in Trinidad and two land rigs operating in Trinidad,” he said. “We are now up to six and seven off shore rigs in Trinidad and maybe four or five on land, so this is the highest level of activity in Trinidad in 30-plus years.” He called for a second academy be established in south Trinidad since a single facility “will not be able to satisfy the need to be filled locally.”
“The second academy (should be) situated in south Trinidad around where all the rigs are operating, that would be my dream,” Packer said. Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine said the Drilling Academy had opened at a good time since the upstream industry had been reinvented by government and is set for growth. He said drilling activity had increased eight-fold in recent months, with eight rigs currently drilling in waters off Trinidad and more involved in land drilling activities.
Ramnarine said activity in the energy sector was set to continue into the next decade since eight more production-sharing contracts totalling US $1.9 billion had been signed.
Also speaking at the officiual ceremony was Petrotrin chairman Lindsay Gillette who said the energy company was aggressively pursuing exploration and production over the next five years and would need the skilled personnel who would graduate from the school. He said the state-owned company was faced with an ageing workforce and needs more skilled labour.
Commenting on the location of the facility at Ste Madeleine, once a vibrant hub of the sugar industry, Tertiary Education Minister Fazal Karim said with its opening “we have moved from the cane fields to the brain fields”. Karim said the T&T Accreditation Council will seek to have the Drilling Academy’s indigenous training programme accredited with the International Drillers Association. The facility will have its first intake of students in January.