In the past few years, exploration for oil and gas, rare earths, niobium, copper, gold, silver, zinc, titanium, zirconium, and coal has been carried out in Kenya.
The discovery of commercially viable oil and gas deposits in Turkana and Lamu has inspired further exploration.
When exploration comes to an end and large-scale extraction starts, there will be increased demand for skills in the minerals and energy sectors, which are set to expand.
What jobs relate to minerals and energy extraction?
Talk about work in the mining industry and the image that is likely come to mind is that of workers wearing helmets, carrying pickaxes, and spending their day in some deep dark tunnel excavating, to emerge after eight hours covered in dirt, grime, and sweat. These days, mining is a far cry from this.
Careers in mining can be divided into several broad areas. They include management, applied and natural sciences, health, service and sales, extractive industries, processing and manufacturing, and transport, trade, and equipment operators.
The industry offers more than 120 careers, both professional and trade. A professional pathway can lead to employment as an accountant, chemical engineer, civil/structural engineer, community relation officer, electrical engineer, electronics and instruments engineer, or environmental engineer.
Others include geological engineer, geoscientist, health and safety officer, human resources officer, legal officer, mechanical engineer, metallurgy engineer, mining engineer, process engineer, or surveyor. Most of these jobs can be studied in Kenya.
A trade pathway can lead to jobs as caterer, electrician, machinist, fitter, diesel and plant mechanic, metal fabricator, driller, or equipment operator. You can also work as a field assistant, laboratory assistant, labourer, miner, or truck driver. Again, courses leading to these careers are available in Kenya. Indeed, there are many trades for people who are unemployed or underemployed.
However, to apply these in the mining field often requires up-skilling. This means taking a short course to relate them to the mining industry.
If there is a large enough cohort that needs up-skilling, mining companies may bring these courses to Kenya. Otherwise, you will need to travel abroad for them.
Countries that offer excellent courses in minerals and energy include Australia, Canada, UK, and USA. Australia and Canada provide the most practical experience as both countries have vibrant mining industries that contribute heavily to their GNP.
Most people working in the global mining industry did not choose mining as a career. They were civil or mechanical engineers, lawyers, accountants, electricians, or mechanics. What they found was that careers in mining paid a lot more. There are other benefits as well, including education leading to up-skilling, medical schemes, and favourable working conditions.
As a high school student, you do not need to make an upfront decision that you want to go into the mining and energy industry. You need to be aware of all the different careers that are involved in these industries and how you can get into them.
For example, by having a broad engineering degree, it means that you can get work in the mining industry should you wish to. Later if you decide to leave the mining industry, you will have a qualification to use elsewhere.
At the same time, if you already hold, say, a Bachelors degree in civil engineering, there are conversion programmes that you can enrol in and they will enable you to get a Masters in mining engineering. Some of these programmes are being considered by Kenyan universities to meet the demand for mining engineers locally.
The Geology, Minerals and Mining Draft Bill 2012 recommends that the holder of a mineral right shall work at replacing expatriate managerial employees with Kenyans within three years.
The indication then is that there will be mining jobs in due course. Those who start upgrading their education early will have an advantage when it comes to applying for these jobs.
The writer is a director at the International Education Centre