Utilization of Petroleum Engineering Graduates By the Oil Industry
- Carl Gatlin (U. Of Texas)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- February 1963
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 161 - 163
- 1963. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 4.2 Pipelines, Flowlines and Risers, 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating
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The past few years have been somewhat trying for petroleum engineering educators. We have been subjected to considerable criticism, part of which we undoubtedly deserved. On the other hand some criticisms have been unjust, and we have been put in something of a defensive position. All this has produced some good effects, and in my opinion our educational efforts are stronger, relative to the other engineering disciplines, than ever before. The purpose of this paper is not, however, to rehash the educational problem. Since we have "profited" from industry's criticism, it is only fair that industry also receive the benefit of criticism. The unique relationship between professor and student, whether current or former, gives him an insight into the truth of company-engineer relationships which few, if any, oil company administrators can attain. We hear all the gripes, compliments, etc. because the student, or former student, knows we are on his side. We often know his salary progress (or lack of it), the kind of work he is doing, whether he is happy or not, and why. The following analysis of some current industry practices and problems are my own opinions, and are largely based on conversations with other teachers, students, ex-students, and in particular with graduate students who have returned to school after a few years in industry. My purpose in presenting them formally is the hope that they will furnish industry some basis for a little soul searching of the type we in education have recently experienced.
Philosophical History of Petroleum Engineering
Until recently the colleges were busily occupied turning out the vast quantity of BS graduates required by industry. In nearly all cases petroleum engineering departments were understaffed, underpaid and overworked during the "boom" years. The background of this period has been discussed recently by Campbell,' and complete statistics are available in periodic reports by Whiting. During the last 20 years oil company producing departments have enjoyed a relatively unique position among American industries in that most of their recruiting problems were solved before they came to the campus. Petroleum engineers, dedicated to the industry by name tag and training, were available in considerable quantity and could be "had" with little effort. Engineers from other disciplines were also available, but had to be recruited more skillfully since they often knew nothing about the oil business. The relative ease with which a petroleum engineer could be hired by an oil company (obviously, since he had already chosen his specific career area) is at times to his disadvantage particularly at the time of employment and during his early training. "Grass always looks a little greener in the neighbor's pasture."
Past Utilization of Petroleum Engineers
Now and in the past oil companies hire engineers from all disciplines for work in drilling and production operations; certainly there is nothing wrong with this. Unfortunately, very few companies really capitalize on this diversity of talent; instead, they herd everyone through the same training program. The efflux from this training pipeline is presumably a homogenized mixture called junior petroleum engineers. Following this the junior engineers often go through a relatively-uniform apprentice period of a few years in the district offices where they learn company procedures. Finally they are allowed to peruse that closely-guarded document, the company manual. After this period, we are told, all engineers look alike all are petroleum engineers. No one can argue this point. All beef looks like hamburger downstream from the grinder. A close look at most major company training programs clearly shows that they have been designed for other than the petroleum engineering graduate. The petroleum engineer is therefore retarded in his development, since he is held to the progress of a program designed for people with no formal background in the field. He is forced to mark time while the others catch up on petroleum technology. In other words, the formal petroleum engineering training has not been utilized by many major companies. I have tried to analyze the reasons behind the reluctance of many companies to utilize more effectively our product. Why do so many engineering administrators feel they have to re-educate our graduates, run them through short courses, and subject them to long and expensive training periods before they are allowed to do anything resembling a bonafide engineering job? I do not know all of the answers, but from many discussions with former students (your employees) and my own experience the following reasons emerge. 1. Petroleum engineers are a minority group. Everyone who is a Republican knows what this means. Chemical and mechanical engineers, coming from older and more established disciplines, are better organized and more numerous. Consequently, petroleum engineers do not have equal voice in many companies.
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