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The Santos funded Oil Search Foundation (OSF) has introduced a Youth Opportunities Program in the Nipa – Kutubu District of Southern Highlands province in partnership with the National and Provincial Governments.

One of the key objectives of the Program is to address youth empowerment by creating pathways that will lead to sustainable employment or income options including sustainable agricultural opportunities in rural areas.

OSF is partnering with the PNG Government, the Nipa-Kutubu District Development Authority (DDA) and Pimaga-Kutubu Technical, Vocational Education Training (TVET) school to support several young people in accessing labor mobility programs between Nipa-Kutubu District and host countries.

As part of this joint effort, 13 recent graduate electricians from Pimaga-Kutubu TVET school, arrived in Port Moresby to start the preparation for engagement in an Australian labour mobility program. OSF will support these graduates in the application process to be considered to travel to Australia under the Seasonal Worker Program (SWP). This process involves completing identity registration with PNG Civil and Identity Registry, obtaining birth certificates, passport application, medical checks, interviews with the Labour Mobility Unit and then training in safety, living in cross cultural settings, comprehensive life skills training, and work experience in supervised settings where they can use their trade training in a supportive environment.

OSF has partnered with the Labour Mobility Unit, Peuna and Total Waste Management and Pacific Energy Consulting to deliver the comprehensive training programs. All partners met with this group of excited young people this week in Port Moresby at the Santos National Football Stadium as they started their training. Pimaga-Kutubu TVET school was founded in 2015 by former Oil Search training coordinator Warubi Masahimu with the support of his daughter Lydia Warubi, Santos Deputy Health & Safety Manager. The father and daughter team were both lauded at the event for their invaluable contributions and for their support towards the program.

Leon Buskens, Santos Country Chair, PNG and OSF Director said: “The ambition for integrating labor mobility into the Youth Opportunities Program is not just the benefit of increased incomes from remittances, but also the ability to leverage new life skills and competencies through exposure to new ideas, experiences, and personal growth. It can provide an incentive for participation and provide hope to communities with few opportunities for work and international travel.”

Mr. Buskens told the graduates there are many opportunities to expand these options to other sectors and industries if they perform well in this program. “Congratulations on being selected as one of the 13 graduates in the exciting new program. You come here not only as a representative of your families and local villages but of Southern Highlands and Papua New Guinea. I would also like to recognize the only female in the cohort. She is changing mindsets and is a great role model for the many young girls in her community. To all graduates, we know it won’t be easy as you venture out into a new environment so never be afraid to ask for help or support when needed.”

Also in attendance at the event were John Kila, Kutubu LLG President and Anthony Hamaga, Moran Special Purpose Authority Chairman.

“I am very happy with this initiative and so on behalf of my people of Kutubu, I would like to recognize Santos and OSF for offering my young people this unique opportunity that will enrich their lives,” said Mr. Kila.

Amos Bura’a, one of the 13 graduates spoke on behalf of his peers about the challenges faced by youth in their community.

“Poverty resulting from lack of educational opportunities and employment force us youth to engage in law-and-order problems. We feel very fortunate to be given such an opportunity because it is already changing our lives. Thank you to Santos and the Oil Search Foundation for recognizing our struggles and giving us hope for the future. We also acknowledge all the other partners including Total Waste Management for providing us our first on-the-job training.”

Papua New Guinea is facing a challenge to create opportunities for 60% of the population who are under the age of 18. This trend, known as a youth bulge, is common in many countries across the world. Countries need to make sure that these young people have access to a good education and employment opportunities so they can contribute to the economy and support their families. Failure to meet these needs can lead to social unrest, mental health and drug and alcohol issues, and lost productivity. Santos and OSF want to support Government partners, local communities, and youth to make sure those 60% of young people have every chance to do well and to contribute to the development of Papua New Guinea.

The 13 graduates will likely be mobilised to Australia by December this year.