Welding students tap oil country to help build Ghana's booming oil industry

Enduring Edmonton’s winter is a small price to pay for five men from the west African country of Ghana who are training  here as welders. 

The students left their families behind to study at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology — learning skills that will help build Ghana’s burgeoning oil and gas industry. 

“My number one goal and my number one dream is to go back and train my other fellow students back in Ghana,” prospective welder Bright Oduro said in an interview on CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active Friday. 

How NAIT is helping to build Ghana’s booming oil industry. Five men from West Africa are here training as welders, in hopes of transferring that knowledge to others back home. We talk with a local instructor Marcelo Mena and Bright Oduro one of his welding students from Ghana. 10:25

The young men arrived in July, selected from Ghanaian technical schools by that country’s petroleum commission, to help develop its own oilfield workforce. 

The commission was established in 2011 to help regulate and manage the use of petroleum resources after large hydrocarbon discoveries. Oil and gas is expected to be a major driver of Ghana’s economy in the medium to long term.  

“These guys are gonna leave here with a lot of skill, a lot of tools in their toolbox to take home and share with their countrymen,” said instructor Marcelo Mena, who is not only showing them the ropes of welding, but also of Canadian culture.

“It’s not just teaching them how to weld but it’s teaching these men how to work around western companies in all aspects,” he said.

International companies have set up shop in Ghana’s growing oil and gas sector, but most of the advanced welders are from other countries, Mena said. 

While the opportunities are there for his fellow countrymen to work in the industry, they lack the training, Oduro said. He wants to make a difference in unemployment rates there. 

“When I go back to Ghana I will make sure that I also transfer my knowledge to them,” he said. 

Culture shock

The experience has been rewarding, but challenging. 

“At times I’ll be homesick,” Oduro said. “Always being cold in the house and also missing my hometown food.”

Despite the culture shock, the students have been great sports, Mena said. 

“They are a little bit frightened to hear about the -20 C to the possibility of -30 C in January. So they’re not really looking forward to that. But they’ve been soldiering away.

“I feel very blessed to have met these five young guys,” Mena said. “They’re extremely bright … these are the students we dream about. 

“They’re just engaged from start to finish.”

The students complete their 10-month program in April. 

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