Technology is changing every sector of the economy, including the energy sector. The examples are endless: new seismic imaging technology is unlocking new reserves and improving recovery, drone technology is revolutionising pipeline and platform inspections, RFID technology is transforming inventory management, and everywhere information technology is fundamentally altering how people work and communicate. All of these technologically driven changes have implications for how people work, the jobs people do and the skills and knowledge companies need. Individuals, companies and countries who manage the changes brought about by new technology will succeed, while those who fail to adapt will be left behind.
The 2019 theme of the Trinidad and Tobago Energy Chamber’s (Energy Chamber) flagship Energy Conference is ‘Technology: Transforming the Industry’. At the launch of the conference in October 2018, a high-power panel of energy sector executives discussed the conference theme and highlighted the key issues that will need to be addressed if Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean is to successfully adapt to the new technology. The key issues that came out of the discussions included the challenge of successfully managing change within companies, relationships between large operator companies and suppliers in the adoption and adaptation of new technology, improved industry — academia relationships, reshaping the education system — and creating a flexible labour market able to respond quickly to an ever-changing environment.
These themes will be key discussion areas at the 2019 Energy Conference. They also represent key areas with which Trinidad and Tobago will have to grapple with if we are to continue to succeed in the energy sector. Managing this transition will require leaders in the industry to do things differently and new relationships and ways of working will need to be forged. One of the key concerns from local energy service companies is how can they participate in the development and adoption of new technology with big operator companies, given the tendency of many operators to engage primarily with wellknown international suppliers for new technology development and the existence of global supply agreements. The relationship between operators and suppliers must be a two-way street if we are to see the wider benefits of new technology adoption, especially if we want to see the benefits of new technology spill over into the rest of the non-energy economy.
While a lot of the change management that is needed can be primarily driven by companies, both large and small, there is also a need for dialogue with the government, especially with regard to the structure of the labour market and the educational system. The consensus amongst all participants in the recent panel discussion was that Trinidad and Tobago’s education system needs a major overhaul if we are to prepare our young people for the realities of the new working environment. Problem-solving, team work, communication and innovative thinking will be key skills, while the ability to memorise and regurgitate facts is becoming less and less important. We need an entirely new educational system from primary school through to tertiary level to be able to survive in the new energy sector. This obviously needs governmental leadership.
Legislative change is also needed to create a new, more flexible and adaptable labour market. The current system and the adversarial relationships that it fosters is not in the best interests of either companies or employees. This again is a key area where government policymaking is needed in order to develop and implement new legislation. While much of the discussion about new technology has been taking place within the private sector and in academia, there is a key need for government to come on board and develop appropriate policies. The 2019 Energy Conference represents a key opportunity for these discussions to take place with a wider group of stakeholders and to drive forward the changes we need to survive and thrive.