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Universities join forces to ease shortage of engineers

Published:Friday | September 15, 2017 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris

The chronic shortage of qualified engineers in Jamaica could soon be a thing of the past as three of the island's leading universities have forged a partnership which will see them training at least 1,000 annually.

Speaking with Gleaner reporters recently, Dr Paul Aiken, director of engineering and deputy dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus, said it will partner with the University of Technology (UTech) and the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) to train these engineers.

"We want to generate 1,000 engineers per year between all the universities, and right now we are only at 200," Aiken told editors and reporters at the forum which was held at The Gleaner's North Street head office.

"We are working together to generate that cadre of engineers," he said.


Significant benefits


While stakeholders contend that the introduction of liquefied natural gas in Jamaica's energy mix will result in significant benefits and opportunities for the country, there are concerns that a shortage of engineers could be a problem for some countries.

"A lot of companies come to Jamaica to set up business, but two things, the energy and the workforces, are not there," Dr Aiken said.

The UWI will get help in training engineers from New Fortress Energy, which is taking LNG to the campus.


Grants and scholarships


New Fortress will invest in grants and scholarships as well as the training of over 100 electrical power engineering students.

"The number of students is expected to increase to more than 300 in the next two years, with the Government of Jamaica and the university's goal to dramatically increase the total number of graduating engineers to over 1,000 per year," said Wes Edens, founder and chairman of New Fortress.

"This will strengthen and build further competence and capacity, ensuring the preparation of a next-generation workforce for the LNG industries in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean and North America.

"Additionally, members of the university's academic staff will benefit from new research programmes in cryogenics (the study of the production and behaviour of materials at very low temperatures)," added Edens.

In the meantime, Ricardo Nuncio, managing director of Red Stripe, which was the first commercial entity in Jamaica to indicate its plan to switch to LNG, has welcomed the move as it has been challenged to find qualified engineers.

"It is costly to find qualified engineers. When you go out there and you find them, their capabilities are really not where they are supposed to be, so as a business, you need to invest a lot on training and bring their capabilities up," Nuncio told the forum.

"That is the future if we really want to make Jamaica more competitive and attract more investments, you need workforce," added Nuncio.