By BOSORINA ROBBY
PAPUA New Guinea universities and trade and vocational centres need a substantial investment in human capital and in re-evaluating the relevance of the degree and diploma courses offered.
Chancellor of the University of Natural Resources and Environment, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, said last Thursday at the Certified Practising Accountants (CPA) conference that as part of the review process of universities with Prof Ross Garnaut, the reviews they conducted had revealed a significantly worse state of the universities.
Sir Rabbie said the funds available to government ought to enable the restructure and resourcing of the universities with a focus on new programmes and courses that were relevant to PNG and its future.
“These could include marine biology, tropical medicine and mining and petroleum services and engineering. And there needs to be an investment in modern IT including broadband services for universities to complement run down libraries.
“But when you look at our trade and vocational training structures, the position is even worse than it is in our universities,” Sir Rabbie said.
He said there was no doubt that there were fewer places and opportunities in trade and vocational training now than there was at independence with several of them closing and many being neglected when the Australian administration left.
“Today, much of the training is undertaken by churches, industry and business houses and by AusAID through the Pacific Technical College in Port Moresby.
“What they are doing is first class but only represents a fraction of what we need to secure, a skilled workforce and to meet out appalling unemployment levels,” he said.
He said these days the growing demand for trained personnel in the face of the PNG LNG project reflected the neglect that had gone into these schools.
“It is a demand we are incapable of meeting from our own workforce and there is a real worry that recruitment for work associated with the gas project will cause labour shortages in mining and construction elsewhere,” he said.
Sir Rabbie also stressed that this was a troubling and sad state of affairs that of the 7,000 jobs that would be required during the construction phase, Papua New Guineans will only be able to provide a few hundred immediately.
“ExxonMobil is to be commended for the training facility it is developing in record time in Port Moresby and the Southern Highlands – a facility that will serve the nation beyond the gas construction phase.”
He said the high funding priority for the immediate future in trade and vocational must be delivered by the government working in partnership with business and resource sectors, churches and private training providers.