Training Center of the Ministry of Oil:Leading the way in building Human Capital [Archives:2007/1019/Business & Economy]

January 25 2007

Interview by: Raidan Al-Saqqaf
[email protected]

Advancing the nation in the 21st century requires more than economic development and political progress; it requires investing in the Human Capital of the country and building a pool of expertise and knowledge, especially considering that knowledge and know-how have become the main forces of development. Yemen Times has come across a praiseworthy example of this commitment to building human capital in the Ministry of Oil and Natural Resources, and spoke to AbdulRahman Saber, Director of the Yemen Petroleum Training Center affiliated to the Ministry of Oil and Minerals, who told us about his center's commitment towards building the human capital of the Ministry of Oil.

Can you brief us on the different stages of development this center has been through?

The center has existed since 1996, however its operations and training activates had stagnated until it reached a position to be either shut down or be activated. The minister decided to activate the center and boost its resources in order to be capable of living up to its mission and in August 2006 the center was moved into its new premises and changed its administrative staff in order to ensure a fresh and smooth start for the center. Today we have around 60 personnel undertaking various administrative and academic roles in English training and computer skills as well as technical skills in accordance to the trainings we have.

After doing the first step, which was finding the new premises and equipping it, we started working on the curricula and types of training we need in both the short and long term. We found that the highest priority were English language skills as those skills are critical to furthering the knowledge base of our employees as it is the language of science and understanding it is essential in order to have access to knowledge. The second priority was computer and information technology skills because computing has become the medium of communications and an effective tool in all sectors. Our new premises is equipped with a wireless network to allow employees to browse the internet and open multimedia anywhere in the center and we also have state-of-the-art computer labs with high speed internet operating during working hours all day long.

The next task at hand was to find qualified educators and teachers to teach and we have advertised in Yemen Times among other papers our vacancies and have received a considerable number of applications for us to choose the best tutors regardless of their cost, especially considering that our teaching curricula is that of the best English language training centers in the country which meets international standards for teaching English as a foreign language. With regards to our computer training we have communicated with the UNESCO in order to obtain the International Computer Driving License accreditation and we are about to be accredited as we meet the requirements of the UNESCO in this regards.

What about Technical training?

As I have explained to you, English and computing are the gateway towards sophisticated technical training. However, we do also run several short-term technical training programs in several sectors in accordance to the needs of the respective departments of the ministry, was it oil refining, maintenance of equipment and infrastructure, geological analysis or even mineral sciences among others. We also have other training programs to teach the 'soft skills', such as organizations and management, leadership and teamwork and several administrative skills which we consider to be of great importance for work as well as the learning process of trainees.

To answer your question in more detail around technical training, we receive memos from various departments around their training needs as well as an annual plan which details the number of trainees and the type of required training they need. We look into these memos and look into the subjects, we search within our existing team of cadres to see if we have the needed type of training and we also look into government facilities to see if they have the capabilities to provide hands-on training required by those department. Then, we provide the theoretical part of the training here in our premises, we recruit international experts if we did not find any person with the specific area of expertise and we ensure that the trainees attain the maximum possible, thereafter we coordinate with the departments affiliated to the ministry and undertake the training either in their facilities or in the field itself. For example, in the area of maintenance you can describe the Aden refinery as a school in which tens of employees specialized in maintenance have had their training there.

Have you had any cooperation from oil and gas companies operating in Yemen with regards to training and exchanging knowledge?

As you know, the departments affiliated to the Ministry of Oil are very diversified, you have the department of Gas, you have the Yemen Oil Company, you have the department for minerals, you also have the department of supply and marketing. The technical needs of these departments are highly diversified which oblige us to knock on all doors in order to help us with the training process. We have cooperated with various companies which operate in Yemen with regards to exchanging expertise, as many of those companies have a pool of international experience as well as the resources and facilities, so that we would be able to position our training programs in such a manner that is similar to their and learn from their experiences in training. Several companies have their in-house training facilities such as Yemen LNG and Canadian Nexen, however we are yet to cooperate with their training centers directly with regards to undertaking joint training programs. We also have agreed with the department of Yemenization in the ministry in order to coordinate efforts and formulate a joint strategy in order to provide the market with the needed skills in the oil sector, however, as a start our focus is on the departments affiliated to the ministry and English language training and computer skills.

In numbers, how many people can the center train and in what areas?

There are over 14,000 employees affiliated to the Ministry of Oil, and we aspire to enhance the skills of all of those 14,000, we are very optimistic about our capabilities and we know that we have the full support of Minister Khalid Bahah with regards to raising the quality of the employees in the ministry.

If we examine those 14,000 in more detail, we find that technical training is mostly needed in only two departments. Those are the department for explorations and production of oil, which employs around 2000 people; and the other is the department for geological surveying, which employs around 1500 people. While the other departments' need mostly English language training, computer skills and also training in soft skills. This type of training is being currently undertaken and we have started with the first batch of training 121 employees in English language as a pilot training course. We have the capacity to train 1400 employees annually once we start training on full scale.

Tell us about your overall training strategy during the upcoming few years.

Prior to the activation of the center, each department had its own training strategy and mechanism which proved highly inefficient with disappointing outcomes. However, now we have a training coordinator in each department who forecasts the need and shortage of skills the department is currently has or is likely to see in the near future or in the medium term. This information is the basis of our strategy, which considers the needs of all departments and ensures the ministry meets its training goals and ensures constant supply of skills for various departments.

Our current five-year strategy emphasis on English language training and computer skills as I have mentioned, however, with regards to technical aspects we have an alarming shortage of skilled people to oversee and undertake maintenance operations in several facilities, was it in the production of natural gas for domestic use or in the refineries, we also need to maintain even the containers of refined oil products which distribute Gasoline and other products to retail points. Maintenance is an important part of all operations. We also are planning to introduce unique training programs such in geological surveying to examine fragile locations and avoid catastrophes such as that of Al-Dufair village last year, where a sudden landslide destroyed the village. By 2012 we will have the expertise in all oil, gas, and mineral sciences and we will have trained at least 5000 employees affiliated with the ministry in English and basic computer skills.