Investing in human capital development is a fundamental necessity for businesses and economies to thrive. We now see more companies coming to grips with the fact that productivity, innovation, technology and growth depend on a skilled and empowered workforce.
Governments across the GCC region have put together strategic plans, linked to their economic diversification agendas, to develop a national workforce that helps maximise in-country value and thus, secure sustainable social and economic benefits for their countries.
Oman’s Vision 2040 has set a clear road map to improve various socio-economic areas in the country by implementing a broad set of reforms around national priorities. Fostering national expertise and preparing future-fit leaders are key to achieving the objectives outlined in the Vision, specifically to sustain growth and in-country value (ICV) contribution in knowledge-intensive industries such as oil and gas.
To do so, a wide range of initiatives have been put in place aimed at building local capabilities through upskilling programmes, developing a diverse and inclusive workforce to foster creativity and innovation, and implementing employee exchange programs to share and develop competencies for improved performance. Notably, the percentage of Omanisation at companies in the oil and gas industry has reached 82 per cent, bringing the total number of Omanis by the end of the year 2018 to 14,927 employees.
So, how can we leverage learning and development to build future leaders in Oman?
Our experience with Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) showed that the extent to which training is transferred back to the workplace depends on the initiative of individual graduates and the workplace environment, while the design and delivery of training programmes play a vital role in keeping trainees engaged, both before and after the training. As part of the commissioning support services framework for PDO, SNC-Lavalin launched a Commissioning Training Academy in Muscat in 2017 to build the local workforce and develop well-trained Omanis to lead energy sector growth for the future.
Combining theory with practice, the training program covers knowledge of commissioning safety and risk-assessment and commissioning procedure compliance with related field exercises. Upon programme completion, trainees are also granted the Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation (OPITO) certification, which recognizes international-level skills training designed to support workforce development in the energy industry through an accredited competency assurance programme.
Currently, more than 200 Omani trainees are participating in this custom-designed training programme, which is expected to train a total of 250 locals by the programme completion date in 2022. Today, 25 trainees have been successfully placed in industry-related jobs in Oman.
The key to the success of learning and development programs is to ensure that the objectives and the outcomes are aligned with career growth goals of employees. This has to be further supported by active engagement from employees and leaders alike, to expand knowledge, share learning and best practices, and apply core competencies gained on-the-job. As a result, this nurtures a solid, two-way relationship between the organisation and its employees, where both foster co-ownership at the workplace for mutual growth and development.
Training is a science as much as it is an art. The two key goals of human resources in the oil and gas industry in Oman are employee retention and engagement. A well-thought learning and development program can help create a sense of greater cohesion and alignment toward a common vision, thus helping to retain the highest performers, and maintaining higher levels of engagement, productivity, and satisfaction. It is only then we can truly achieve thriving knowledge-intensive industries that stimulate in-country value and drive national prosperity and growth.
Ruqaiya Al Maashari is the Human Resources Manager, Oil & Gas, Oman at SNC-Lavalin.