Uganda Petroleum Institute Kigumba (UPIK), Uganda’s premier oil institute, plans to restructure its curriculum and introduce five more oil courses, according to the institute’s Institutional Development Plan 2014-2019. The development plan was released last month.
Started by government in 2009, the institute currently offers a two-year diploma in petroleum studies with options in drilling, electrical installation, instrumentation and welding, followed by a six-month practical training at Kenson School of Production Technology in Trinidad and Tobago.
The training comes with International Vocational Qualification (IVQ), of City and Guilds of London. UPIK is the country’s only tertiary institution that is specifically mandated to train craftsmen and other technicians that will provide the much-needed labour in the oil sector.
However, the development plan proposes an overhaul of the curriculum. The diploma in petroleum studies will be phased out and replaced with five new courses, following an assessment and review.
“The assessment believes that the curriculum used by UPIK’s first intake programme was sometimes too broad and was not developed in close cooperation with the industry. It was very broad, included a mix of petroleum operations and maintenance and didn’t target any specific occupation.”
The new curriculum and courses are designed to deliver a more occupational-specific programme at diploma level and industry responsive. According to the plan, the new proposed courses are: diplomas in Upstream Petroleum Operations, Downstream Operations, Instrumentation Technician, Mechanical Maintenance Technology and Electrical Maintenance (High Voltage). Diplomas in Upstream and Downstream Operations will be two years while diplomas in Instrumentation Technician and Mechanical Maintenance Technology are expected to be one year.
Prof Charles Kwesiga, the chairperson of UPIK management team, recently told The Observer that proposed new courses are more industry-responsive and meant to produce a labour force that is relevant to the industry. For instance, the new diploma in upstream operations will focus on field production techniques and equipments, reservoir engineering including enhanced well recovery, gas processing, drilling, petroleum chemistry, safety fundamentals and geology.
A diploma in downstream operations will cover areas such as gas processing, refining and petrochemical production, among others. According to the plan, each course is expected to admit 32 students, all on government sponsorship. According to the plan, these courses are expected to begin in 2016 with the first batch of students of a one-year diploma (Instrumentation, electrical and mechanical maintenance) expected to graduate in June 2017. The two-year diploma students in upstream and downstream operations are expected to graduate in June 2018, the year in which Uganda is expected to deliver first oil.
According to the plan, in the financial year 2016/17, UPIK will graduate 160 students up from the 54 students, it graduated early this year. In 2017/18 academic year, the institute plans to graduate 192 students while in 2018/19, it will graduate 224.
According to the development plan, UPIK plans to start graduating approximately 224 students annually in the five courses by the year 2018/2019. According to the plan, UPIK plans to partner with internationally-recognised petroleum institutions to train its students.
The plan also hints at reforms that will allow the institute to generate additional revenue by selling services, which might save it from its financial woes.
“UPIK will seek increased autonomy, to determine its own curriculum, set its own fees and budgets, hire, salary and fire teaching staff, drop or add courses to more flexibly and timely respond to oil and gas sector needs, while at the same time becoming more accountable for results to the ministry which oversees its operations,” the plan reads in part.
Aware that there are many skilled technicians without formal trainings, UPIK plans to attract this group by using competence-based training to allow them join UPIK and formalize their skills. UPIK also intends to come up with courses to train the large percentage of Uganda youths who have never attended or completed school or who have dropped out of school.
The plan advises that “UPIK should address this problem by supporting the Skilling Uganda Strategy, which recognizes non-formal training through competence-based training (CBT). UPIK should explore the possibility of starting ‘skills-bridge programmes which would assist non-formally trained, skilled workers to obtain their O-levels, so that they may eventually enter UPIK certificates level programmes.”
Whereas other tertiary institutions are headed by principals and vice chancellors, the plan reveals that UPIK will be headed by a chief executive officer (CEO), assisted by two vice presidents, one in charge of administration and another in charge of academics.
“This is a key to the long-term success of UPIK. The chief executive officer will be based in Kampala and must be respected in the Uganda oil and gas industry in order to keep strong linkages between UPIK and industry and ensure that UPIK training is relevant and responsive. The vice president of Academics will be based in Kigumba and run the institute on the day-to-day [basis]” the plan reads.