ADDING VALUE

Oman 2016 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Lawrence Alva, CEO of the National Training Institute (NTI), on collaborating with the public and private sector, and filling gaps and meeting challenges in training the local workforce.

Lawrence Alva
BIOGRAPHY
Lawrence Alva, a Chartered Manager (UK), is currently the CEO of NTI in Oman with over 30 years of experience in training and development. His credentials include Membership of the Chartered Management Institute UK and the Indian Society for Training and Development. He is a certified alumni of the Leadership Academy of the New Horizons University USA, an Associate Member of IOSH UK, and holds a MBA in Educational Management from University of Leicester, UK.

What has been the impact of NTI's recent merger with Babcock International Group?

The merger is an immense added value to NTI's presence in Oman as a training provider because Babcock is one of the largest, most well-known and accepted providers in the UK and has a presence across the world. The merger is particularly of value in gaining more GCC countries, who are always looking for Western or international partners for education and training. As such, the acquisition by Babcock has been not only positive for NTI as a training provider, giving us the backing, know-how, technology, and experience of an international player, but from the local market perspective as well.

What is your approach to Omanization?

Omanization is a positive development and has been successful in this country in comparison to other GCC countries that are trying to implement the same initiative. Omanis are willing to work, particularly women. We have the population, and there is a huge need. It is now about finding the right approach.

What collaboration does NTI have between the private and public sectors?

Though we are mainly working within the private sector, the government also uses our services to develop their workforce. We offer a range of soft services such as IT training and business management skill-building that the government utilizes. Typically, however, the policies and directions given by the government guide us, and we work predominantly with the private sector to help them localize their workforce.

What gaps currently exist in the Omani system?

Oman is in an interesting situation. The private sector is looking for a local workforce. There is a need to employ workers, a population seeking employment, and funding to ensure that training is provided. However, we have a challenge. We cannot find enough takers for jobs in the private sector because people are looking for government jobs. The other issue is that workers are demanding high salaries, which is not cost affective for the average private sector company. Currently NTI offers entry-level jobs that will pay over $1,000 a month. We receive enough funding to offer a stipend of $750 a month, but no takers. Since January 2015, we have only filled 150 out of over 500 positions available.

What are NTI's objectives in terms of diversifying the economy?

Generally, it is our primary activity to work with employers and provide them with solutions. In order to work with employers to achieve their objectives, we have invested in our facilities and programs. Our capacity has expanded, and in the next two months NTI will move to a new, fit-for-purpose campus. Part of the reason NTI has invested so much time and money into a new campus, is to change negative perceptions about the Omani training industry and give confidence to the market.

What are the major challenges for the training industry?

Part of the reason NTI has invested so much time and money into a new campus is to give confidence to the market. We are working to change negative perceptions about the Omani training industry. In Oman, the cultural mindset needs to change as well. The major challenge in our industry is the perception of the population and unrealistic expectations for high salaries. Right now, people want to jump to the top right away without experience, so the idea of building expertise needs to be learned.

What are NTI's expectations for the next five years?

There is definitely organic growth occurring in Oman. We are looking at a regional move to see how we can export our capability within the region.