THE 7,000 jobs reserved for Papua New Guineans in the PNG LNG project may be taken up by foreigners because PNG does not have skilled technical manpower, Labour and Industrial Relations secretary David Tibu revealed yesterday.
Mr Tibu and his senior officers were giving evidence before the Bipartisan Parliamentary Committee hearing into the riots targeting Asian-owned and operated businesses in May.
He said the number of people finishing formal education was huge but there were not enough jobs to cater for them as employers only hired skilled people.
Statistics show that more than 18,000 school leavers come out from Grade Eight, 10 and 12 every year but only about 3,000 make it through to higher, tertiary or technical college while the rest (15,000) are left to fend for themselves.
The dropouts could not find jobs because they did not have the required skills, Mr Tibu said.
He said these school leavers ended up in the informal sector and many of them rebelled against the Chinese-owned and operated businesses because they could not get a job.
The Bipartisan Parliamentary Committee is headed by chairman Jamie Maxtone-Graham and comprises Lagaip-Porgera MP Philip Kikala, Wosera-Gawi MP Ronald Asik and Sohe MP Anthony Nene. Mr Tibu said vocational and apprentice training were not being pursued as vigorously as before and the challenge for the Government now was to enforce apprentice training to meet the number of jobs on offer.
“Government needs to beef up training. We cannot pass the buck, and the Government needs to take the lead in training our people,” he said.
Another senior officer, Melly Kivung, who is responsible for technical training, said in the past Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) took onboard 450 apprentices a year and the Works Department did the same in technical training.
He said now the LNG project would have on offer 7,000 jobs for Papua New Guineans but when he asked the Education Department and Port Moresby Technical College to supply 500 welders for the project, there were none.
He said brain-drain, lack of training and poaching by bigger companies were some of the many reasons that Papua New Guinea now lacked skilled manpower.
Mr Kivung said dockyards in PNG also needed technical people like welders to build ships instead of buying them from Singapore, but they would have to get foreign workers because PNG did not have skilled people.
He said that Ramu Nico also did not train technical people and the department was “toothless” to address this issue with the company.
“Let’s skill our own people and tailor our programmes to take on these big projects.”
Mr Tibu said the Department of Labour had seven officers who would be processing a massive 14,000 work permits and they were now looking at introducing shift work to undertake this huge workload.
He said big companies must not poach skilled workers but do their own training as by law, the department could not force employers to do training.
“We have already told the LNG project team that they have to start training people before construction starts,” he said.