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Coaching and Developing Well-Rounded Petroleum Engineers

June 29, 2021 | Campus News
Coaching and Developing Well-Rounded Petroleum Engineers

As long as oil and gas remain an important part of the energy mix, the world still needs petroleum engineers for exploration, extracting and processing crude oil and natural gas beyond the boundaries of countries. Besides strong technical skills from academic training, what are the qualities and traits that a full-fledged petroleum engineer ideally owned?

Before we dive deep into that, let’s take a look at how a petroleum engineer works. The source of oil and gas could be discovered anywhere in the world, so travel and relocation to other countries may be a part of the role of a petroleum engineer. It is also common for engineers on-site to work 84-hour rotations and shifts, but they do get long breaks away from work as well!

A typical day for a petroleum engineer, especially those who are not working in offices or laboratories, could be exciting and demanding. It includes working on the ground which needs much communication skills with colleagues from different backgrounds and culture: maintaining records of drilling and production operations; coordinating the installation, maintenance & operation of mining and oil field equipment; developing plans for oil and gas field drilling; executing product recovery and treatment.

“Naturally and inevitably, they must have strong teamwork skills and be passionate to build a connection with people; open-minded and be resourceful with problem-solving skills and can work under immense pressure whilst keeping their drive and enthusiasm,” said Ts Harvin Kaur, a Chartered Mechanical Engineer and engineering lecturer who used to work onshore and offshore as a production engineer for a petroleum operating company based in Sabah.

Lecturers like Ts Harvin Kaur bring industry experience and real-world knowledge into teaching and learning at APU, transforming students into industry professionals.

Abdallah El Badaoui, 21, a Year-3 petroleum engineering student who aimed to join the energy industry and have a real impact in the world, shared a similar view. “You got to be open-minded, always challenge your perspective and have a great attitude. Before stepping into the real world just like any other field, you need to be passionate about what you are doing, be keen to learn and unlearn, make connections, as the saying goes – your network is your net worth,” he stated.

“Therefore, for a petroleum-engineer-in-training, joining a professional organisation even while you still studying, is important to form up your professionality”, added Abdallah, a Comorian by origin, who came to Malaysia pursuing a Bachelor of Petroleum Engineering with honours at APU. Abdallah now helms the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Student Chapter @ APU as the President.

Recently, SPE APU was presented with an excellence award by SPE International, in recognition of its efforts in technical knowledge dissemination, uplifting society, and community outreach and innovation.

Coaching and Developing Well-Rounded Petroleum Engineers

SPE Student Chapters around the world are providing extracurricular training for the petroleum-engineer-to-be at the university level. The primary goal of their activities is to complement the university’s petroleum engineering academic curriculum and to augment the students’ educational experience. SPE International is a non-profit professional association that has more than 140,600 members in 144 countries engaged in oil and gas exploration and production. SPE is a key resource for technical knowledge providing opportunities to exchange information at in-person and online events and training courses, publications, and other resources.

“I believe a students’ peer group is the most important source to influence their academic and personal development. The development of the well-rounded individual comprised of in-class and out-of-class activities. So the out-of-class activities help students to understand the importance of critical thinking skills, time management, and academic and intellectual competence. Furthermore, working with diverse groups of individuals allows for students to gain more self-confidence, autonomy, and appreciation for others' differences and similarities,” elaborated Ts Harvin, who is also the advisor of the SPE Student Chapter.

Petroleum engineering students need to develop skills specific to their career path, this is imperative for their future job success. By participating in SPE and organising activities, students could develop soft skills, leadership skills and learn to work in a team apart from getting networking opportunity. All of these highly sought after attributes by employers in the energy and oil & gas sector. While the aspiration for newly grads equipped with a soft skillset besides academic achievement always exists, leadership roles in SPE’s activities will be positively linked to the attainment of one's first job or even a managerial role in it.

OUTSTANDING SPE STUDENT CHAPTER AWARD

Established in February 2020, SPE Student Chapter at APU has accomplished many milestones during the first year, despite the disruption of the global pandemic. “We have proved to be amongst the most active student chapters in Malaysia. Our very first activity was a trip to Indonesia for a smart competition early last year, followed by a geological field trip, and a collaboration with fellow Malaysian student chapters for a major event - SPE Malaysia Student Chapter Oil and Gas Convention,” said Abdallah.

Coaching and Developing Well-Rounded Petroleum Engineers

Moreover, the society had marked their first year of operation with an iconic event – Saturday is for SPE, a five Saturdays virtual event series that saw the first international collaboration with SPE Imperial college, SPE IFP School and SPE University of Houston. The event attracted participants from 33 countries, 60 universities and 40 SPE Student Chapters with 11 speakers and more than 200 attendees, which accumulated more than 3000 views and 4000 interactions on the internet.

With its active involvement over a year, members of the society were thrilled to be awarded the Student Chapter Excellence Award 2021, as this prestigious recognition is the second-highest honour a student chapter may receive and only awarded to 20% of student chapters around the world. Every student chapter around the world needs to submit an annual report for yearly performance review. SPE International would then evaluate if each chapter exhibits the criteria and perform exceptionally

“This is a recognition of our team’s effort, it is not about the product, but the process. All the work we had done rewarding by itself, the connections we made, the new skills learned and the exposure we had will impact our future path. As it reminds us all to work hard for something, this award also motivates our student community to keep working hard and striving for excellence,” opined Abdallah.

The combination of academic training and extracurricular activities to form a well-rounded professional engineer at APU is enhanced by strong Industry-Academia partnerships with international bodies - enhancing productivity in petroleum engineering through collaborations with Petroleum Experts Limited, UK (PETEX) and Rock Flow Dynamics Ltd., USA (RFD) who provide industrial software for student learning and research purposes, that could be applied in their Field Development Project (FDP) and Final Year Project (FYP).

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