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Building a formidable workforce for the oil and gas sector

Source: Wikimedia

Nestled in the Sabahan town of Kimanis, just 50 kilometres south of the state capital, Kota Kinabalu, several futuristic,glassy façades stand tall  among the quaint colonial buildings and wooden shoplots that dot the rather tranquil town.

The Kimanis Petroleum Training Centre (KTC) is a learning institution established by PETRONAS to accelerate the development of Sabahans in the oil and gas industry. The 2.95-acre campus boasts state-of-the-art facilities and offers a three-year training programme in Malaysian Skill Diploma of Industrial Instrumentation and Control for high school leavers, fully sponsored by PETRONAS.

Opportunities for local participation

KTC is just one of the institutions spearheaded by PETRONAS to accelerate human capital development in the nation’s oil and gas sector, especially in oil producing states. Skill development of locals is integral to ensure local sourcing of talent. This in turn, would promote holistic value creation by empowering the communities where they operate.

A significant number of PETRONAS’ oilfields are located in the states of Sabah and Sarawak, which necessitates a focus on obtaining local talent for offshore-related categories.

A 2018 study by PETRONAS of Malaysia’s oil and gas services and equipment (OGSE) talent landscape revealed that while local participation is high in some categories, offshore segments like drilling rigs and exploration present opportunities for further local participation.

Besides that, the skill sets of offshore categories like drilling and commercial offshore diving have a notable experience gap. Most of the positions are filled by seniors with more than 10 years of experience and there is a severe lack of feeders to ensure long-term human resource sustainability.

The study also noted that it is challenging task to attract young Sabahans and Sarawakians to join the offshore-centric programmes offered at existing oil and gas training facilities.

Addressing the skills gap

PETRONAS’ primary training facility is the Institut Teknologi Petroleum PETRONAS (INSTEP) established in 1981. Four years ago, the institution launched the Upstream Downstream Training Plant (UDTP), marking a phenomenal transformation in its learning experience.

The UDTP is the first of its kind in the world. It simulates real plant scenario which helps enhance the learning experience via hands-on training and experiential learning.Besides being exposed to some of the most advanced oil and gas equipment in the world, students are also taught pertinent digital skills and are trained in occupational safety and environmentally sustainable practices.

Coupled with certified instructors and assessors, the institution is a hallmark of learning in the oil and gas sector. Its graduates are globally marketable and are equipped with transferable skills that can be applied to any offshore oil and gas facility in the world.

PETRONAS’ strategy of talent development surgically addresses the demands of the sector and within the context of Malaysia, helps upskill local talents to allay dependence on foreign expertise. Such training institutions like INSTEP and KTCare able to produce a future workforce with the adequate training in line with the talent demands nationally and globally.

Industry-driven initiatives like the ones spurred by PETRONAS also take into account a shifting ecosystem as the world adopts Industry 4.0 technologies.

A rising middle class in the country will fuel demand for energy. Improved economic activity following market recovery is set to intensify the demand projection from 58,000 to 80,000 talents.

Hence, there is an urgent need for workers with digital skill sets. The oil and gas industry is already experimenting with these new technologies like blockchain based smart contracts which promise to transform all parts of the hydrocarbon value chain,from exploration to refinery maintenance.

With the oil and gas sector showing no signs of slowing down, PETRONAS’ initiatives to build manpower capacity is timely as much as it is salient to the country’s future. Anchored in its mission to develop high quality local talent, a PETRONAS trained workforce truly is a force to be reckoned with.