Energy Minister Franklin Khan says work permit qualifications for energy sector staff will soon be amended to help address under-employment as well as ensuring greater transfer of skills to locals.
“There were 241 applications for six positions of Petroleum Engineer (in the ministry). Collectively, the government and energy companies, through production sharing contracts and on their own accord, have financed the education of these young people. Therefore, we will be reviewing employment practices in the industry and also our work permit procedures in an effort to protect and enhance the local workforce.”
Khan was speaking yesterday at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Energy Conference at Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain.
Newsday later asked him if government intended to put restrictions on the issuance of work permits, to which he replied, “No.”
“What I’m saying is, we’ll be more selective now because if any industry is booming, you must create a commensurate level of employment. The energy sector is highly technical and we have a lot of skilled young people out there, out of UTT, UWI and most of them are without jobs as we speak. So I was just bringing it to the attention of the sector, a lot of which are foreign companies, that they have a responsibility to employ young professionals in Trinidad because it is (here) they operate.”
Khan added, “So even though we may have to approve a work permit for a particular expatriate of high skill, they would now have a responsibility to train at least two or three young engineers under them as part of the conditions for the issuance of the work permit.”
He said making this change does not require amending any laws – “it’s just an administrative policy decision” – so the new requirements “will be in effect almost immediately.”
Khan also issued a challenge to companies to hire more young people to not only address unemployment but to ensure the continuity of the local energy sector.
“This country has spent $600 million on the GATE programme and we have created the University of TT (UTT) as a technology institution. Therefore, more must be done by the sector to employ young engineers and professionals into the industries. I challenge the sector today to make space for the young people.”
Khan warned that if TT does not create a cadre of new leaders and technocrats, the industry may die.