THROUGH GOOD TIMES AND BAD

Oman 2017 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Lawrence Alva, CEO of the National Training Institute (NTI), on persevering in hard times, meeting demand, and developing one's workforce.

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

This was the first year for NTI's new campus. How has it worked to improve services offered and business overall?

Moving to the new campus has been a long-term vision for us and it comes at the right time because the country is going through a hard time at the moment. Despite living in these difficult times, we have invested in our future and our new campus is a fit-for-purpose facility that is up to world-class standards. We also see the potential for capitalizing on this opportunity because this is a time when a nation should really focus on its people. Oman may have other natural resources like oil, mining, and fisheries, but it is people who make things happen. We are well situated to bridge this gap.

What are some of the most in-demand and highly subscribed training programs at NTI?

Our trainings are diverse and not really focused in one area simply because we operate in a smaller market. Therefore, we get clients from many different industries and segments. We need to cater to all of them, which is why we have a flexible model where we can quickly respond to the needs of the market and the needs of individual clients.

Last year, you mentioned the difficulty in filling private-sector jobs because many people seek government positions. Has progress been made in combatting this?

We are seeing a major change in mindset. We have about 300 people receiving vocational training with us in the center here, and they are quite conscious that jobs are precious. They are keen to take private-sector jobs. People are beginning to feel the pinch of these economic times. The private sector could be more attractive if it was more structured in its approach for emptying the local workforce. Over the years, it has managed operations using an expat group force, but the local workforce needs a different management structure.

As the country takes more steps to diversify the economy, has there been an increase in the amount of non-oil and gas-related courses at NTI?

We have seen a surge in the power sector and the need for workers in the construction sector has always been growing. Manufacturing is another industry that is next to power. We have not taken concrete steps toward development in the areas of tourism, mining, and agriculture; however, as momentum picks up in these sectors, we will respond. Before we were owned by Babcock, we had a sister company called the National Hospitality Institute and until now we had left tourism and hospitality to it. Now that we are owned by a different company; we are deciding whether or not we should pursue something in this sector.

What are your expectations for NTI over the next 12 months?

We are still dependent on the existing framework for training in the country, which is recruitment training followed by employment. Still, employment is crucial and we have to find employers. Under the current economic situation, this is difficult, as the number of new projects is not as high and the number of employers is slowly going down. If we continue to operate under the existing framework, we might have an issue with this. I am hopeful that people in positions of responsibility will see the need for developing their workforce, and get them ready for when things get better. They might need to change the framework a little for when the jobs come, which will have to happen eventually due to the large population coming out of schools and colleges.