Mentoring, training and learning are vital parts of young professionals' development and form a critical skill set for their future careers.
The historical city of Edinburgh, Scotland, was the site of a networking day where representatives of the YP groupings within AAPG and the Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain (PESGB) developed those skill sets by volunteering to become mentors to the first cohort of doctoral students from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)'s Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT).
The new NERC Centre for Doctoral Training consists of seven core partners led by Heriot-Watt University and 12 associate academic partners who bring diversity and expertise in additional disciplines.
The CDT provides a unique opportunity to train the next generation of geoscientific and environmental researchers in oil and gas. Its aim is to create a highly skilled workforce with expertise that can be used across the energy and environmental sectors.
It also aspires to fill skills gaps in the oil and gas industry and in academia, both of which reliably inform government policy. The CDT equips the industry with the skills needed to explore, sustain and reduce the environmental impact of oil and gas exploration and extraction at a time of economic challenge and responsible environmental management.
The annual conference in October, where the postgraduate students will present their results, will not only provide a great opportunity for interaction with individual students and their supervisors, but also a chance to identify research links, new projects and possible recruitment opportunities.
All of the postgraduate students benefit from being embedded alongside world-class researchers while also having access to industry partners in the form of placements, mentoring, specialist facilities and equipment.
During the opening of the CDT in 2014, the president of AAPG Europe, Keith Gerdes of Shell, commented, "This is a truly game-changing initiative and represents the most exciting development in the provision of training for the energy industry in the UK that has occurred during my career."
In attendance were 17 YP mentors and 26 CDT students.
A selection of presentations and discussions were arranged at one of the tapestry studios in Scotland's capital city as an opportunity to meet and network.
The day started off with the motivational welcome speech by AAPG member and Grover E. Murray Memorial Distinguished Educator Award winner John Underhill, academic director of the NERC CDT in oil and gas and the Shell Professor of Exploration Geoscience at Heriot-Watt University.
The day continued with a passionate presentation by Alison Goligher, EVP of unconventionals at Shell, with a refreshing overview of unconventionals worldwide, including some of the challenges related to costs and existing technologies.
AAPG member Graham Blair, technical lead for unconventional exploration at Shell, then gave a technical and truly absorbing talk on the successes and failures of unconventionals and what contributed to these outcomes.
After the tea break, both speakers drew upon experiences from their careers in engineering and geoscience, respectively, relating technical, commercial and personal challenges.
The discussion concluded with a wide range of insightful questions from the audience.
Another highlight was the roundtable session for students and YP mentors to describe their projects and career backgrounds. A lighter side to this activity was the request that all mentors and mentees give away one unusual and extraordinary fact about themselves to help break the ice and reveal a little more about each other.
In fact, from speaking to YP mentors, students and organizers alike, Edinburgh was an ideal location to hold such an event, not least for access to Heriot-Watt University, which sits between London and Aberdeen and is a place of cultural richness and significance in scientific and social history.
"It was a great chance to meet face-to-face instead of just emailing to get to know your own mentors as well as others that may be able to assist with the Ph.D. projects later in the course," said AAPG member Ginny-Marie Bradley, one of the doctoral students from the University of Manchester. "It was nice to get an insight from each company ... see what they are like (and discuss) the different paths YPs had taken and finally to learn what it's like to be a graduate in the petroleum industry."
The day concluded with an evening meal and an Edinburgh ghost bus tour, which "took a ride to the dark side of the city."
Thanks goes out to all those involved, especially John Underhill, Lorna Morrow, Anna Clark and the Heriot-Watt-based CDT team, which put in much work behind the scenes. Virtually everyone present was interested in shaping and developing the initiative. A collaborative vision linking academic, industry and environmental interests in the oil and gas sector is vital.
This successful mentee/mentor networking event exceeded all expectations, and the CDT's progressive training program surely has a very long and bright future.