Ministry of Education, Guyana

Saturday, 26 January 2019 09:54

UG launches oil and gas programmes

…UWI Principal urges students to develop Guyana, Caribbean

The University of Guyana (UG) on Friday launched its two newest degree programmes: the Associate Degree in Science (Petroleum Engineering) and a Master’s Degree in Science (Petroleum Engineering) as part of efforts to develop local capacity.

At the official launch on Friday, Vice-Chancellor of the university Professor Dr. Ivelaw Lloyd Griffith highlighted that the programmes were established as part of the efforts to respond to the national need of positioning its human capital to work within the emerging petroleum sector.

The Master’s degree is being offered through partnership with the University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine, while the Associate programme is being done in conjunction with the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT).

“We found it necessary to build partnerships- to tap into the expertise of people who are in Guyana and out of Guyana,” Dr. Griffith highlighted. “This programme is enabled by partnerships to help us rightsize [and] deal with some realities that we aren’t able to deal with ourselves.” According to him, the pursuit of partnerships will be more forthcoming as the university serves to meet the needs of the country- beyond oil and gas development.

In this regard, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UWI, Professor Brian Copeland posited that locals ought to position themselves to foster development in their country and contribute to the development of the Caribbean. “There’s no question that everyone believes that Guyana’s oil and gas discoveries have to be used responsibly for the betterment of the country and its people,” he said.

He contended, “These degree programmes are the first critical steps which would equip and encourage its graduates to take responsibility to use their knowledge and expertise to ensure that there is accountability in the extraction process and that Guyana will– in the first instance– get its fair share of the monetisation of this natural resource.” And further, he noted: “Even better, it sets the stage for Guyana to take greater command of its oil and gas sectors in the not- too-distant future.” In taking command of the emerging sector, he urged that Guyanese think of long-term, strategic and sustainable development.
According to him, food and housing security, health and education are areas that should be focused on as the country plans ahead for perhaps the next 20 to 30 years, using revenues from the petroleum sector.

“The country should be careful to not create a society that is overly dependent on the state for all of its needs,” he however cautioned. This is a characteristic of the infamous ‘Dutch Disease’ in countries worldwide. If the country is able to harness its human capital and strategically plan for sustainable development, it could possibly fashion itself into a “dream society” he envisions.
“In this dream society the economy would be sustainable and will be robust. As such, it will not be characterised by the few economic giants, but will be grown by a firm export earning structure that is that democratised… through what the germans call a Mittelstand,”

The Mittelstand is an economic model that fosters innovation through export-oriented Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). It allows for the democratisation of the country where all persons have a hand in creating businesses that could generate foreign exchange, which trickles down to the smallest possible level (like family units).

According to Copeland, this Mittelstand model is a missing factor of the economies of the Caribbean. These economies are heavily dependent upon few sectors. In Trinidad and Tobago for example, he said, the the oil and gas sector doesn’t employ that many people, but yet most of the economy is dependant on it. That is harmful to the economy. And to remedy this, he underscored that education of the people is critical. “The national education system must ensure that it prepares citizens to successfully function in the world of the future. In this regard, creating a sustainable economy in this dream society requires that our education seeds and nurtures a strong culture of innovation and entrepreneurship,” he said.

He clarified however that innovation is a product or process that is new, but has begun to produce returns on investment thus bringing value to society. And in most contexts, it is used for technological concepts– though it can also be applied to economic and social spheres.

This concept of innovation is used by UWI to fuel strategic and practical endeavours geared at revitalising the Caribbean, through cultivating the prerequisite skills in human capital, according to the principal. And he further noted that the university has been trying to fuel efforts to build this Mittelstand while bolstering the existing economic efforts being undertaken across sectors.

“The challenge with building the Caribbean Mittelstand is not without basis because many of our graduates pick up jobs that are below their academic experience,” he shared and explained that this is so because the economy is saturated with professionals in the traditional fields such as medicine and law. “We strongly believe that these students should be motivated and supported to apply their expertise and inventive talents to the foundation and development of their own enterprises,” Professor Copeland highlighted.

“Create your own businesses,” he said simply and later added: “What we need to build the Caribbean Mittelstand is a virtual swarm of SMEs.” And he suggested that the Caribbean’s system of education should move from a “purely functional” approach to one that integrates the arts with the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to cultivate professionals that can create solutions and fuel innovation.

In the Guyanese context, he stressed that innovation-driven entrepreneurship, societal transformation and economic transformation must be a high priority, since the country will have oil as a major income earner. “To whom much is given, much is expected,” he said.

As such, he noted that the first graduates of these new programmes will be expected to offer solutions to the very real problems of Guyana and in doing so address the many anticipated and expected challenges as the country transforms. UG officially launched these programmes on Friday however it has been accepting applications earlier. Registrar of UG Dr. Nigel Gravesande has affirmed that young people are eager to get involved in the emerging oil and gas sector, with a large number of persons already applying for UG’s new petroleum engineering programme.

Source:https://guyanachronicle.com

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