In 2018, at the peak of the construction and integration of the Egina Floating Production Storage Offloading (FPSO) vessel, over 3,000 Nigerians were believed to have been employed by Samsung Heavy Industries of Korea (SHI-MCI) for the project.
The $3.3 billion FPSO which was built by Samsung Heavy Industries of Korea (SHI) for the Egina oilfield being developed in Nigeria by the global oil giant, Total, offered a unique challenge in that most of the pioneering 3,000 employees had no industry qualifications or experience before starting to work on the project.
Samsung, it was gathered, chose to meet this challenge head-on not by mobilising employees from overseas but instead investing 560,000 man-hours of training programmes with one goal in mind: to identify future Nigerian talents who could participate in the historic completion of the Egina FPSO. This transformation resulted in thousands of Nigerians eventually joining Samsung team to form the core of Samsung’s first heavy industries operation in Africa.
For instance, when Oghenegueke Godwin was hired as a cleaner of Samsung’s welding floor in 2014, he never expected that he would have a chance to be one of the first beneficiaries of Samsung’s free-of-charge welding training course.
“I started by watching over the shoulders of the students grinding, welding and coating,” Godwin said.
“Seeing this, the Korean instructors invited me to help them with small tasks. Even though it was a small thing, having seen my commitment and hard work, they invited me to train with them. They said ‘ok let this guy learn to weld,” he added.
Godwin is now an internationally-certified welder, permanently hired by Samsung as a professional welder.
An international welding certificate training course similar to Oghenegueke Godwin’s can cost on average between N2.5million – N2.8 million per person which makes the course unaffordable for many Nigerians without extra financial support.
Godwin’s instructor remembers how he watched intently and enthusiastically over the shoulders of the first batch of trainees. Goanghun Kim, a senior trainer at Samsung’s Welding Qualification Centre (WQC), noted that “there was a lot of resistance amongst existing trainees. They saw him as beneath them. We told those students that background is not important.
“As long as you are devoted to developing your skills, that’s what matters to us,” Kim said.
Creating equal opportunities and instilling an inclusive work culture enabled Samsung to break record after record on the Egina project. Motivated by trust and without the constraints of societal prejudice, Samsung’s Nigerian trainees and employees were propelled to keep pushing the boundaries of industry norms; Samsung can proudly boast of a 100 per cent pass rate in the international welder training programme. These achievements eventually led the SHI-MCI integration and fabrication yard to become one of the few companies in Africa to be awarded accreditation and training certificates by both national and international bodies including the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and the International Institute of Welding.
Welding trainer, Mr Goanghun Kim is very firm in saying that Samsung’s work culture and equal opportunity policy are just enablers, and the achievements are due to the more than 3,000 individuals just like Godwin who worked tirelessly.
Kim said: “Nigerians should be proud and empowered by these achievements. This proves the competency and potential of Nigerian people in the international job market and will help establish Nigeria as an engineering hub to global manufacturing industries.
“Nigerians are ambitious and hard-working. I have never seen such enthusiasm and eagerness to improve and to learn,” he added.
Godwin’s story proves how training opportunities can be equalisers between the haves and the have-nots and should be further harnessed and fostered in Nigeria to play its part in providing economic growth. It also highlights the fact that many vocational courses are too expensive and are not accessible to those who need them the most. This barrier aggravates the economic and societal prosperity gap.
Godwin is one of many inspiring stories from the Egina project. “I would not have been able to afford this training without Samsung’s help. I know of many lives which are now improved thanks to the project. Some people came in as helpers and now they are assistant managers, scaffolders, welders, operators or riggers. I also came in as a nobody and now I can help my grandma and younger siblings.”
People like Godwin are a living testimony to many ambitious young Nigerians. “I have set an example for my friends and younger siblings. I tell them what I studied and learnt which gives them goals and hopes to fulfil.” Godwin, who now works at Samsung as Material Controller says that what makes him happy is to have the privilege to teach others, passing on the same opportunities he received.
For this story to continue in Nigeria, more global engineering companies should follow Samsung’s example and help the government and educational sector as a part of their local- content plans. By providing opportunities, transferring skills and supporting vocational programmes to those who cannot afford education. Samsung’s example will hopefully serve as a pathway for other companies to further, accelerate Nigeria’s economic growth and human development.