World consumption of energy derived from fossil fuels is at an all-time high and continues to increase, although at a slower rate. The future supply of energy is critical for economic vitality and security worldwide.
To assure that the future energy supply will be sufficient to meet the needs of the increasingly industrialized world, more well-educated and trained geologists, geophysicists and engineers are needed.
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that over one-half of the U.S. technical work force will retire in the next 15 years – a critical loss in work force. Currently a significant shortage of petroleum geoscientists exists in North America and western Europe, but shortages also have been reported in India and Southeast Asia.
Enrollment in geosciences and petroleum engineering is increasing. For example, the number of undergraduate students studying petroleum engineering at Texas A&M University, one of the largest petroleum engineering schools in the United States, has increased from 191 in 2001 to 507 in 2006, including a new satellite campus in Qatar.
But will the current increasing enrollment be enough to supply work force needs accelerated by increasing demand for energy and the looming wave of retirements?
What is AAPG currently doing to attract, assist and encourage students in geosciences?
♦ AAPG, through its local affiliated societies, encourages students in elementary through high schools to take scientific and technical classes. It’s important to interest young students i n geoscience before they enter a college or university.
Many local societies participate in the Earth Science Week program (Oct. 14-20), developed by the American Geological Institute. This year the West Texas Geological Society, my home society, will send volunteers into 50 elementary schools to give geoscience talks to fourth through sixth grade students.
♦ The AAPG Sections, with partial funding from the AAPG Foundation, offer elementary and middle school science teachers training in geology with applications to the petroleum industry. This is accomplished through the seminar, “Rocks In Your Head.” The program is usually offered in conjunction with the Section conventions.
♦ The AAPG Foundation has a Grants-in-Aid program, created to foster research in the geosciences by providing support to graduate students in the earth sciences whose research has application to the search for and development of petroleum and energy minera ls resources and to related environmental geology issues.
A comprehensive and rigorous application and review process identifies the most deserving applicants, who are eligible for a maximum grant of $2,000.
The 2006 application class completed the 50th year of the AAPG Grants-in-Aid program. In that time over $2.5 million has been granted to 2,265 high quality master’s and Ph.D. student research projects throughout the world.
♦ AAPG sponsors student chapter in 160 universities throughout the world and endeavors to increase that number.
The newest chapter (as of this writing) is in Ecuador, and its addition to the group brings the total number to 80 international and 80 U.S.-based chapters. Student chapter membership totals over 5,000.
Student membership fees ($10 per year) are generously sponsored by Chevron.
The Student Chapter program was highlighted by several events at this year’s AAPG annual convention in Long Beach, Calif., where students participated in oral presentation and poster competitions.
Thirty-five students also participated in a three-day post-convention field trip in southern California.
♦ This year AAPG began sponsorship of the Imperial Barrel Award (IBA) contest, a program originated at Imperial College (London).
The IBA program provides a real-world learning experience for college and graduate-level students that integrates their academic training with a team exploration project format. The students start with a seismic and well-data set to interpret and predict exploration potential in a designated basin.
Seven student teams presented their results and interpretations to a panel of judges at our annual meeting in Long Beach, Calif. Winner of the competition was the team from the University of Aberdeen (Scotland); the university received a gift of $20,000 from AAPG.
Thanks to the huge success of the 2007 IBA, the program will be expanded to include worldwide Section and Region competitions with 12-14 school teams competing for the awards at next April’s AAPG annual convention in San Antonio.
♦ The AAPG Visiting Geoscientist Program plays an important role in guiding students into earth science careers through direct student contact during college and [PFItemLinkShortcode|id:12676|type:standard|anchorText:university visits|cssClass:asshref|title:see a related article|PFItemLinkShortcode]
by active professional geoscientists.
The volunteer AAPG members may provide a technical presentation on a variety of subjects or discuss career opportunities with the students, or may offer advice and counsel on career paths based on the presenter’s own experiences.
Interaction with faculty and administrators also provides guidance regarding courses and field experience needed by students to become effective geoscientists.
♦ During the fall of 2006 and then again this past spring, AAPG and SEG sponsored four successful student-recruiting events across the United States: University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyo.; University of Oklahoma in Norman, Okla.; the AAPG Eastern Section meeting in Buffalo, N.Y.; and Rice University in Houston.
Approximately 400 students participated in the four expos, designed to connect geoscience students with potential employers.
The students learned by presenting their work, networking and interviewing with multiple employers at a central location; companies benefited from cost-efficient recruiting from a large and diverse group of motivated students.
The 2007-08 expo schedule has been expanded to five and begins with a new event in Wichita, Kan., and continues with expos at the University of Wyoming; at Rice University; at the Eastern Section meeting in Lexington, Ky.; and at the University of Oklahoma .
What new programs are being planned by AAPG to help increase the energy work force?
AAPG, through its Corporate Advisory Board, has proposed a new program called the Petroleum Education and Research Consortium. The purpose of the program, currently in the planning stage, is to have long-lasting impact on petroleum-related teaching and research.
The consortium would help provide significant research grants to both graduate students and professors.
AAPG will do its best to make a difference in the supply of energy professionals for the future.