Operation Manpower-Recruiting and Training Gifted Students
- John M. Campbell (The U. Of Oklahoma)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- November 1964
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 1,215 - 1,219
- 1964. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training, 7.5.3 Professional Registration/Cetification
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Presented herein are the details of a proven program for recruiting gifted high school students into petroleum engineering. This program is the result of four years' experimentation by the School of Petroleum Engineering at The U. of Oklahoma. A discussion of the financing and training necessary for the program to have impact on the petroleum industry is included. The program outlined, if properly supported by our industry, should pretty well solve our quality, and quantity manpower problems. A careful study has been made of gifted students, and a program of study and training has been outlined which should take full advantage of their capabilities. It is felt that the concrete plan proposed should provide a firm basis for our future needs. Unfortunately, this program, as well as others formulated to improve our educational effectiveness, is, on an unsound financial basis because of inadequate industry support.
In the late 1950's the petroleum industry suddenly awakened to the fact that it bad a marked supply-demand imbalance-the rate of discovery had finally caught up with and even surpassed the market demand for petroleum. Because this had been true for some years before it became apparent, the impact was sudden and severe. People panicked. A rash of early retirements appeared, people were shifted or laid off, and offices consolidated, as everyone groped to achieve some sort of efficiency. The now well documented loss of engineering students in petroleum-oriented disciplines was a natural aftermath. In 1959 it was apparent to the author and his colleagues that the current pessimism was ill-founded, for the industry was simply being forced to "mature" in a hurry and that any institution with its financial stability was going to survive and have a good future. Furthermore, based on comparable events in other industries, the achievement of maturity would undoubtedly enhance the need for, and importance of, engineers. Consequently, we began an active study on the ways and means by which top quality students, in sufficient quantity, could be attracted to petroleum engineering. The first step was to determine the source of our students and the reasons they chose our discipline as a career. A study showed that between 55 and 65 per cent came from homes where the father or a close relative was either employed by the petroleum industry or a company serving it directly. We also found that very few people in the industry were continuing to direct their sons to the discipline. Mathematics and engineering physics seemed to be the predominant choice. Coincidentally, we put a man in space and petroleum was no longer a glamor area. Thus, the loss of both employee confidence and glamor were major factors in our declining enrollments. Another important factor was the fact that the general public did not clearly distinguish between a geologist and a petroleum engineer. At our school, at least, demand continued to absorb our dwindling supply of engineers. Conversely, the demand for geologists virtually disappeared. Before beginning a concrete program, we had to determine one other fact-who had the greatest influence on the young man's choice of a career. As indicated, it was a close relative or parent. Counselors played a role that was important but substantially less than that of the parents. By means of personal surveys, and those of others, the problem became reasonably clarified.
Early Recruiting Programs (1959-1962)
Based on the above data, a several- pronged program was instituted which included: (1) publishing and widely distributing a brochure extolling the virtues of petroleum engineering as a career; (2) writing articles and giving talks aimed at bolstering the confidence of petroleum personnel and fellow educators; (3) a stepped up high school visitation program; and (4) active participation in "Oilman for a Day", "Oil Weeks" and use of packaged talks prepared by the API and SPE. This program had little apparent immediate success. In fact the first results were somewhat discouraging. However, it soon became evident that our confidence, if nothing else, had tempered our losses. Our loss of students, although dramatic, was less severe than many other schools. It was obvious that our staff was insufficient in size and had too little time, in addition to the regular duties, to obtain sufficient coverage on a personal basis. We therefore contacted SPE chapters in our broad geographical area to seek their support.
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