New polytechnic develops next generation of workers for Saudi petrochemical industry
Leading representatives from Saudi’s oil and gas sector gathered in Dammam on 27 February to launch the newest Saudi Petroleum Services Polytechnic (SPSP), the Construction and Drilling Training Center. His Royal Highness Prince Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz attended the inauguration, along with His Excellency, Eng. Ali Ibrahim Al-Naimi, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources; Dr Ali Nasir Al-Ghofais, Governor of TVTC and His Excellency Mr Khalid Al-Falih, President and CEO of Saudi Aramco.
The Construction and Drilling Training Center is the fourth SPSP to be opened in the Kingdom, with the original SPSP campus also located in Dammam and other centers in Al Khafji and Rabigh. The polytechnics are a joint initiative of the Saudi Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation and Chevron Saudi Arabia, Aramco Gulf Operations Company and Saudi Aramco. The SPSP colleges have been designed to provide training solutions specific to the oil and gas industries.
The Construction and Drilling Training Center will offer courses of two years’ duration in crane operations, rigging, scaffolding and drilling, all of which combine an academic component with practical application. Short courses will also be on offer in the areas of health and safety, construction, drilling and management. The center has a purpose-built training area complete with vessels, pipe-work and structures all designed for future riggers, scaffolders and heavy machinery operators to practice new skills in a realistic but safely controlled environment.
TQ will supply the new center with all academic and technical training, curriculum development, professional development for educators and support services. The internationally recognised qualifications available through the center are accredited by TQ’s parent company, Pearson.
Mr Abdullah Al-Yami, Executive Director of SPSP, said they liaised closely with industry to develop the center’s programmes, consulting with some of the Eastern Province’s largest organisations, including Saudi Aramco.
“Working with private organisations to develop our programmes helps ensure our students are acquiring the skills and knowledge that will make them valuable to future employers. Not only do our programmes provide students with qualifications in the industry areas in need of more workers, they also give students the generic skills necessary to perform well in the workplace, such as teamwork, work ethic, leadership and problem-solving capabilities."
Speaking at a World Economic Forum meeting in Davos in January, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Saudi Aramco, Khalid Al-Falih, said there is a mismatch between the education system and the needs of the petro-chemical industry, which threatened the industry’s overall stability.
“Here is an industry that is growing, that is very profitable…and more often than not, companies in our industry are constrained by growth because of a lack of skilled human resources, while they are living or working in countries where there is high unemployment… this issue of a mismatch is real."
A recent International Labour Organisation (ILO) report found that skills shortages in petrochemical industries are a global problem. An aging workforce compounds the problem, with more than half the industry’s employee base likely to leave the workforce over the course of the next decade, and an inadequate number of young people joining its ranks.
However, Pearson’s Managing Director for the region, Karim Daoud, said the new center should help meet the growing demand in Saudi Arabia for workers with a vocational qualification relevant to the petrochemical sector and help young people find employment.
“With youth unemployment in Saudi Arabia significantly higher than the base unemployment rate, we need to look at why so many of our young people are finding it difficult to enter the workplace. Pearson’s research has shown that part of the problem is a mismatch between what students are learning in their education, and the types of skills and qualifications organisations actually need. Vocational education has long been seen as the lesser alternative to a university degree, but this is no longer a reality. The workforce is demanding employees with vocational qualifications, and those students who acquire a vocational education are often finding it easier to secure interesting work that is well-remunerated. The new Dammam Center has been welcomed by leading oil and gas organisations because they see it as part of the broader solution of reducing the skills gap and producing profitable, efficient businesses."