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A great moment to get a jobs strategy


PORT MORESBY - The signing of the Papua LNG and P’nyang gas agreements signals, amongst other things, increased revenue for government coffers.

The big figures involved are impressive and have been well-publicised. Well done to prime minister James Marape and your team.

From an employment perspective, the billions of kina in revenue should translate into sustainable income generation and employment. This should sit right at the top of the government’s priority list.

It comes at a time when the government needs to step up its game in terms of creating more jobs, sustainable jobs.

Unemployment is soaring in PNG and in my view it’s the technical and vocational education sector that offers the greatest opportunities.

The strength of the sector lies in its ability to absorb youth cast out for some reason: not meeting educational requirements for further education; inability to pay fees and social disasters like tribal fighting.

There are 145 Vocational Training (TVET) Centres spread across the country.

These have the mandate to provide trade training to students leaving Grades 8, 10 and 12.

If every school takes in 100 students a year, that provides opportunities to 14,500 young people.

According to the National Qualifications Framework, they should graduate from these centres with an NC1 or NC2 certificate, giving them the opportunity to find employment or enter a national institution and obtain an NC3, NC4 or even diploma qualification.

Lack of available places is a significant current stress on tertiary institutions, and TVET could release this pressure on the system. But that’s not the primary reason.

TVET is a vital component of development because it provides the technical and skilled labour to construct and maintain the infrastructure and utilities upon which development depends.

A country with a strong technical sector will always have the upper hand in moving from developing to developed nation status. So if PNG wants to get there, it must get the basics right by strengthening its technical sector.

The number of unemployed youth moving to towns and cities in the hope of finding a better life increases each year.

There is also increasing crime in rural areas previously known to be peaceful. There is concern that youths are forming gangs and creating law and order problems in these areas where policing is often negligible.

It is my view that this trend will continue and become more intense if these issues are not addressed.

This is where TVET has the potential to harness the energy of youth – around 60% of our population is aged under 25.

PNG has untapped agricultural and marine resources that could provide more than enough jobs for everyone.

The coming of the P'nyang and Papua LNG is the best time for the government to invest in technical and vocational education.

The immediate benefits of such investment would be the provision of skilled labour for the two projects.

However, a good policy maker would envision that highly skilled trades people would be mobilised and PNG will move to train them if it is serious about reducing the number of unemployed youth on the streets.

There were 21,220 workers employed on the first PNG LNG project but only 8,500 were from PNG.

If we continue as we are, this is a scenario likely to be repeated. We just don’t have the capacity at the moment to supply the skilled labour that will be demanded by the projects.

So what needs to be done now to maximise the opportunities for our local labour market to meet the demand in three or four years’ time?

First, the government should increase the number of places in all technical colleges. Places in technical colleges should increase to 10,000 annually, which is estimated to absorb most school leavers and place them in a trade where they can find employment.

This is equivalent to the number of places at universities.

The more we wait, the more unemployed youth will turn to crime.

I strongly encourage the government and its relevant state entities to take affirmative action and put measures in place to create more employment in the technical sector.

Is there the institutional capacity and political will to do this?

Now the Papua LNG and P’nyang gas agreements have been signed, a training and employment strategy needs to be put in place.


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Bernard Corden

'Arbeit macht frei' is a phrase meaning work sets you free. It was used throughout Germany in the 1930s to counteract the scourge of unemployment and eventually appeared above the entrance gates of Auschwitz, Mauthausen-Gusen and many other Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

Arthur Williams

Santos reported in The National today (Thursday) that it was targeting US$2 billion (about K6.84 billion) to US$3 billion (about K10.2 billion) in asset sale proceeds as a means of strengthening its balance sheet this year.

In my commerce classes we were told this is asset stripping and is the process of buying an undervalued company with the intent of selling off its assets to generate a profit for shareholders.

So Santos will pay a final dividend of US$8.5 (K29.10) per share, 70% higher than previous dividends.

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