Vocational training to boost professional skills in Oman NTI Turkiya-AL-HASNI

Oman's local market needs professional skills to reduce dependence on expatriate labour and vocational training will cover this gap.


Vocational training to boost professional skills in Oman

April 20, 2023

Turkiya Al Hasni, CEO of National Training Institute (NTI), talks to The Energy Year about how the training landscape in Oman’s oil and gas sector has been evolving and the company’s tailored solutions. NTI offers workplace competency enhancement training programmes in diverse subjects including business, IT, HSE and technical training for Oman’s hydrocarbons community.

Can you give us an overview of how NTI managed to navigate the pandemic and its effects?
The pandemic hit us hard, and we have been struggling since mid-2020. The lockdown began in March 2020 and the government announced the suspension of all training institutes for six months. Although we resumed the training programmes in September 2020, the government restrictions were a limit on practising our normal activities because the majority of projects either simply stopped or were suspended. Training has always been a service in high demand among oil and gas companies, and they were previously keen to allocate a budget to invest in a workforce with a quality skillset. However, for a long period during the Covid pandemic, this budget was not allocated due to lockdown threats and drilling activities that were severely affected.
For more than six months, there were no training activities because the majority of companies wanted to use funds for other purposes to face the challenges of the pandemic. The situation is improving, but we are still suffering, and projects are not ramping up. We can see brighter opportunities ahead, but it is not clear yet when and how they are going to materialise.

What are the key initiatives and solutions put forward by NTI to get back on track?
We are very flexible in terms of the training we provide, and we can adapt ourselves to different segments, from oil and gas to marine, or from IT to HSE. We target anything new coming into the market. Currently we are planning to penetrate logistics, which will be a new experience for us. To this end we have recently registered as a member of a new association called OLA [Oman Logistics Association], which is similar to OPAL [Oman Society for Petroleum Services].
Due to the ongoing developments in the country within the logistics sector, particularly in the Duqm area, we believe the segment is very promising. In 2021, we opened a new centre in Duqm, the Duqm Institute for Trade and Industry, which focuses primarily on health and safety practices.


How much of your business portfolio is devoted to the energy industry?
We set up a workshop on solar energy a few years ago, but we found that there is not much demand for solar energy training. However, we are ready to provide any kind of training. At the moment, oil and gas companies still represent our core business. They used to rely significantly on training courses, but in the past few years, I have not seen demand growing from their side, apart from health and safety training, which is what keeps training service providers active in the local market.

What would you identify as the key challenges private training service providers are facing?
Players that started delivering in-house training represent one of the greatest challenges that private training institutes are facing. To give you an example, big oil and gas companies have shifted to providing training for their own personnel and workforce, putting our business at risk. They have the financial capabilities to invest in facilities, but this investment leads them to move out of their core business.
They may have the capabilities to manage the training but it will not be the way we do. We are specialists in providing the training services. That is why some important names in the industry started in-house training but then later turned that training into a separate business unit competing with the private institutes.
To provide quality, competent training, you need to have good connections with other training providers abroad and the right contacts. It’s not just a matter of having available resources. You must also deal with what is not available by linking the demand for certain skills not present in the market with the providers that can transfer their experience. We have this ability as a real training solutions provider with international accreditations, and it sometimes requires us to bring people from outside if we are to offer the best possible training, and work on the accreditations that match the market needs.

What is your assessment of the company’s status as an international entity but with solid roots in Oman?
NTI is part of Babcock International Group, a UK-based leading training provider in Europe, which acquired us in 2014. There are pros and cons in being part of an international group. The advantage is that our mission was to be an international company, to extend our scope of work and to show that we are solid enough to bring good value to the market. Our long-standing presence in Oman means we have the right experience and a grasp of the domestic business environment.
The disadvantage is that we are losing business because we are treated as a foreign entity. We have lost several contracts and tenders because 100% Omani companies come first
We were established in 1985, and we are strong enough to do any kind of project. The majority of the large companies know we are capable of providing any kind of training compliant with high quality standards. However, there are many smaller local players and institutes emerging, and the government is giving them more possibilities to obtain contracts by breaking projects into different pieces and announcing separate tenders for each.

What is NTI’s footprint in terms of assets?
We have six main facilities where we conduct our operations. Three are in Muscat, which is where we have our main facility and conduct HSE, management and IT courses. The other two in Muscat are devoted to technical learning and have many workshops for the classrooms. Regarding the other three facilities, they are in Marmul, Saih Rawl and Duqm.
How would you describe your socioeconomic impact?
Our main purpose is to create jobs for Omanis. In particular we help young people find good jobs, and we thereby support the future of the country. Our mission is therefore an important one because we need to understand the market dynamics and the skills employers are looking for, and we must be able to provide these skills to help people find their own paths.
There are a lot of job seekers at the moment, and finding a job is not easy. Our area of expertise is to create the right synergy and relationship between the candidates and the recruiters. We provide candidates with the best tools and skills because we believe that trained people are a competitive asset.
Our training capacity is 800. At the beginning of this year, we started the three-year Vocational Diploma Programme for fresh graduates. The outputs of this programme will greatly contribute to accelerating the recruitment process. The local market needs professional skills to reduce dependence on expatriate labour and vocational training will cover this gap. Our programmes have been meticulously chosen to match the Omani market’s needs.

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