Student Link Survey: Energy Professionals of Tomorrow

The oil and gas industry of tomorrow is shaped by today’s students. In this survey, current students and young professionals (YPs) share their thoughts on the energy industry, the role of their education, and their relationship with SPE.

 

A total of 1,037 readers responded fully to the survey. The national distribution indicates 26% Asians, 18% South Americans, 14% Africans, 14% Middle-Easterners, 14% North Americans, 12% Europeans/Russians, and 3% Australians/New Zealanders. The area of study included 23% North America, 19% Asia/Asia Pacific, 17% Europe/Russia, 15% South America and Caribbean, 13% Middle East, 8% Africa, and 5% Australia/New Zealand. The male/female mix was 81/19. Most of the respondents have had some level of work experience; 80% of them are full-time students. This survey is a discussion on the views of the respondents on their education and career direction in preparation for the oil and gas industry. The contributions of SPE are also reviewed.

Section 1: Education and Career Direction

What form does your education take?

Education in the energy sector primarily takes the form of classes (48%) and combinations of classes and practical studies (47%). Education through practical training only is found marginally (5%). Field trips, internships, and group projects are seen as the most rewarding teaching methods (59%), and e-mentoring appears to be the least rewarding approach (2%).

What is your career orientation, and what do you consider relevant for developing your competencies?

An overwhelming 94% of the respondents look forward to joining the oil and gas industry. Only 11% of respondents consider pay to be a major incentive attracting them to the energy sector. Most (69%) see technical challenges as the major incentive. Only 4% of respondents have yet to choose entry into the oil and gas sector. The 3% of respondents who question working in the oil and gas industry are considering the alternative-energy sector or perceive that oil and gas is technologically obsolete. Interestingly, no respondents indicated doubts about the viability of the industry in the coming 40 years.

To support their careers, respondents rate the most-relevant competencies as team and people skills (23%), knowledge and technical competency (21%), and creative problem solving (18%). To develop these skills, 74% of students anticipate taking post-graduate studies before joining the industry, with significant regional variations: In North America and Australia/New Zealand, this number drops to 59%, while in Asia Pacific it climbs to 73%, and in the rest of the world it oscillates between 81 and 89%.

Do you believe that your academic curriculum is suited to the industry and its evolution?

Globally, 74% of respondents consider that the academic curriculum follows the evolution of the industry or combines current and evolving requirements. Also, 60% of the respondents perceive a shortage of faculty in their department.

Significant regional differences are interesting. According to respondents in Africa, education is not evolving with industry requirements, with insufficient learning materials and lack of resources devoted to learning English. Students in Asia want more practical sessions, field examples, and interaction with the industry. Shortage of staff is perceived in Australia/New Zealand (74% of the responses), along with a need for better incorporation of new ideas, technology, and theories. Europe and Russia are the only regions where shortage of staff is cited by less than half of the respondents. European students want more industrial training and field trips and favor technical specialization over broad knowledge. Middle Eastern students, on the contrary, prefer nontechnical studies (economics, marketing) and believe the region is short on teaching resources. Students in South America and the Caribbean region want better training in English and collaboration between universities and industry. In North America, students express no interest in nontechnical courses (such as history or political science) and prefer lecturers with industry experience.

Two-thirds of the respondents would like to see some changes in their current educational program. Leading the call for this are respondents in Africa, South America, Asia, and the Middle East (75 to 77%), whereas Europeans and Russians are more moderate in their desire for curricular change (55%).

Section 2: The Role of SPE

Do you feel that your student chapter is successful?

A modest majority of respondents (59%) view their chapter as successful; a surprising 24% of respondents are not familiar with their chapter, and 17% view their chapter as unsuccessful. The most successful chapters are observed in North America, the most unsuccessful are observed in South America/Caribbean, and those chapters most likely to be viewed as unknown by regional respondents (37%) are found in Australia/New Zealand. Notably, a chapter’s success or failure hinges on performance within the same list of categories. Successful chapters have good student participation, chapter events, leadership, and industry networking. Unsuccessful chapters fail in these same areas. Interest in student interaction is clear: An open forum exclusively for students is encouraged by 88% of respondents.

Students consider that the SPE chapters are contributing to their development by providing technical seminars (23%), networking opportunities (21%), organizational skills (16%), and social events (16%). Awareness that each edition of TWA includes a section for students is low (63% of respondents were not aware of this, and 45% were not aware of the magazine itself). This publication is least known in Australia and New Zealand, in the Middle East, and, ironically, in North America, where student chapters are most likely to be rated successful.

Conclusion

Today’s students will become the pillars of tomorrow’s oil and gas industry. The theme of this issue brought out the views of the students concerning their preparedness for the future. These respondents are being equipped with classroom and outside practical training. Though they have benefited immensely from field trips, internships, and group projects, classroom training still remains the primary teaching method in academia.

Most of the respondents appear enthusiastic about a career in the industry. They have identified team and people skills, knowledge and technical competency, and creative problem solving as necessary competencies for their careers. A good number of respondents are willing to further their education to develop these competencies. There are some areas of academia in which the respondents would like to see improvement. These include faculty shortage, more industrial training, more field trips, and, in certain regions, a greater focus on evolving technologies.

SPE student chapters should focus on student participation, chapter events, leadership, and industry networking for their success. Respondents generally believe there is a need to increase awareness of SPE student chapters, TWA, and SPE activities. However, respondents also tend to agree that SPE chapters have contributed to their development through technical seminars, networking opportunities, and social events.

For a more detailed version of the survey, access the e-version of TWA: http://www.spe.org/spe-app/spe/twa/index.htm.


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