Comments: Industry/Academia Dialogue
- John Donnelly (JPT Editor)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- April 2008
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 18 - 18
- 2008. Society of Petroleum Engineers
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- 25 since 2007
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SPE’s 2008 Colloquium on Petroleum Engineering Education brought together educators and industry professionals from various sectors to look at the state of industry/university relations and to examine how well each is doing in developing professionals. The event, held near Houston, attracted 93 attendees, two-thirds of those from industry. Speakers from both industry and academia focused on several important issues, including the skills that today’s graduates need to succeed, petroleum engineering faculty shortages, and how industry and universities can better help each other. Susan Howes of Chevron and Lloyd Heinze of Texas Tech University were cochairs of the event.
With the shortfall of technical talent already confronting the industry, such dialogue is more important than ever. Among the colloquium’s objectives were to
- Develop a common understanding of the industry’s needs and how universities, operators, the service sector, and government, can fill those needs.
- Develop a common understanding of petroleum department challenges in meeting industry’s needs and identify possible solutions.
- Review the qualifications required of today’s graduate engineers so universi-ties can develop the proper curriculum.
- Discuss the evolving roles of academia, industry, the service sector, government, and SPE in undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate continuing education.
- Strengthen industry/education/government partnerships.
One subject that attracted quite a bit of discussion was the value of a petroleum engineering degree vs. a broader energy degree. Another issue concerned how much universities should squeeze into the available curriculum hours vs. looking to industry to teach selected skills in the first few years of employment. Petroleum engineering faculty shortages also attracted attention. Facing a shortage of people, the industry is hiring faculty away at a time when universities are experiencing more enrollment demand. “Universities are facing their own big crew change,” says Ron Hinn of Oxy, who was on the planning committee for the event.
One of the major results from the colloquium was a request to industry from academia for more support. Among the suggestions were for industry to provide more funding for endowed chairs and research, create “externships” for professors so they could work in industry for a summer, underwrite the costs of select faculty to attend SPE conferences, allow employees to take sabbaticals from work so they could teach for a semester or two at universities, and establish programs for retirees to teach at universities. Members of industry called for universities to graduate students with higher competency levels in business acumen and economic insight in addition to having the core science and engineering skills.
The mutual dialogue will continue at this year’s SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, with a session planned to further discuss some of the issues that arose at the colloquium. All presentations from the colloquium and the list of corporate supporters have been posted on the Petroleum Engineering Educators’ Network on SPE’s website.
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