The energy sector in the country is set for major transformation after Kenyan and Chinese governments opened the country’s second Luban Workshop at Taita-Taveta University that will specialize in Petroleum and Petro-chemical engineering.
This new development is part of a long-term joint plan to create a technical workforce to enhance the country’s capacity for exploiting the potential of the Blue Economy.
University Education and Research Principal Secretary Ambassador Simon Nabukwesi termed the opening of the workshop as a game-changer in the country’s quest of becoming a regional powerhouse in the oil and gas industry.
Speaking during the launch of the Luban Workshop at Taita-Taveta University in Mwatate sub-county, Amb Nabukwesi noted that the partnership between Kenya and China to bolster the capacity of a locally trained workforce would see the country benefit immensely from practical skills in the fields of petroleum engineering, petrochemical engineering and New Generation Information Technology.
The event also saw the opening of a Kenya-China Vocational and Technical Education Center where a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Taita-Taveta University and Dongying Vocational Institute.
The two institutions agreed to the establishment of a center at the university while another sister center will be established at Dongying Vocational Institute. The latter will become the base for Kenyan Teachers training in China as well as a base for learners pursuing advanced studies in the Asian superpower.
“This Luban Workshop will be a center of excellence for bridging a technical skills workforce shortage for Kenya and other countries in Eastern and Southern Africa,” PS Nabukwesi said.
The PS further noted that the deficit in skilled workforce in the oil and gas subsector in Eastern and Southern African Region has significantly slowed down the capacity of the country to fully exploit the sector.
He added that the launch of the Luban Workshop to provide specialized training in petrochemical and petroleum engineering would reverse this trend.
The Workshop will train oil and gas specialists from Kenya and other countries in East and Southern Africa.
PS Nabukwesi commended the varsity for pioneering in courses in vocational and technical skills in oil and gas noting that it will revolutionize the sector at the dawn of petroleum production in the country.
Oil exploration studies have confirmed Kenya’s potential as an offshore gas and oil producer. Lamu Basin and areas along Kenya’s oceanic boundaries have potential for large reserves of oil and gas.
Kenya’s first Luban Workshop was opened at Machakos University in December 2019. The Machakos Luban Workshop specialises in training students on innovative cloud computing courses, promotion of interaction through video-conferencing and stimulation of research in the field of ICT.
Taita-Taveta University Vice Chancellor Prof Fred Barasa termed it as a great honor to host the Workshop that will serve as the regional Center of Excellence in the petro-chemical engineering field. He added that the university had strategically poised itself by filling in the market gaps by focusing on emerging trends in engineering fields and responding to such needs.
He disclosed that already, several lecturers from Taita-Taveta University have undergone training in Dongying Vocational Institute in China in readiness to roll out the program in the varsity. He further noted that a comprehensive syllabus for teaching specialized courses in oil and gas had been developed in readiness for training.
“Our team at the university has a curriculum on oil and gas that will be used to train students in petroleum engineering. Our lecturers have been trained in China and we have others who are undergoing that training,” he said.
The establishment of Luban Workshops comes after the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2018 where China pledged to establish 10 such workshops in Africa to provide technical and vocational skills for youth. This would promote innovation and entrepreneurship.
Other Luban Workshops have been opened in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Uganda.
Kenya’s Ambassador to China Sarah Serem hailed the partnership between the two institutions as the future of educational collaboration. The Ambassador, who was attending virtually, added that the two governments had been working on strengthening joint programs that would capacity-build local workforce to strengthen Kenya’s capacity to exploit her natural resources.
“This partnership is proof that we need to engage deeply in programs that focus on skills’ transfer in the technical sector to create a workforce that can respond to emergent needs,” she said.
Senior Chinese officials including Yang Xiaochun, Deputy Director in Center for Sino-Foreign People-to-People Exchange; Liu Meihua, Deputy Mayor of Dongying Municipal government; Li Yancheng, the President of Dongying Vocational Institute and representative of Lenovo attended the event through video-conferencing.
By Wagema Mwangi