You’re a talented, experienced
geoscientist, seemingly well positioned to emerge unscathed from
that often-unsettling experience known as career transitioning.
But you have a little secret: Inadequate workstation-savvy
skills are nibbling away at your self-confidence as you survey the
And having perhaps only a trickle of cash flow at
best, resolving this dilemma via expensive commercial training programs
is out of the question.
Relax — there’s a place for people like you.
It’s the Geoscience Technology Training Center
(GTTC), housed at the Harris Community College District office in
Formed in 1992, this partnership between the oil and
gas industry, professional associations and academia continues to
focus on providing lower-cost training in cutting-edge computer
workstation applications to oil and gas professionals who need to
enhance their technical skills, either for current job assignments
or to re-enter the work force.
The facility has trained more than 2,800 geoscience
professionals who average about 20 years of experience. The workstation
courses are provided under the auspices of continuing education.
"We provide services to individuals who do not have
the financial resources to attend training through the more expensive
traditional software training companies," said Craig Coleman, GTTC
program director. "It’s a niche-type of training, primarily
for experienced oil and gas professionals.
"We also provide continued access to hardware and
software for current and former students," he added, "in order to
prevent the loss of newly acquired technical skills."
AAPG began championing the concept/model across the
United States in 1996, when the AAPG Foundation provided a one-time
grant to the Houston facility. The Foundation continues to provide
support for the programs, and centers are now also located in:
- Midland, Texas.
- Bakersfield, Calif.
- Calgary, Canada.
- London, England.
- The newest center, just recently announced, for Vienna, Austria.
As of 2002, cumulative funding for the Houston facility
via hardware, software and financial donations had reached $15 million.
Current corporate contributors include Landmark/Geographix, Seismic
Micro-Technology, Schlumberger-Geoquest and Hampson-Russell.
Regarding the donated software, the partnership has
a dedicated commitment to avoid offering its training services to
the donors’ corporate clients.
"That’s not our market or what we would pursue,"
The current computing environment makes the GTTC particularly
"There’s been an evolution of technology and
a growing utilization in the petroleum industry of PC-based software,"
Coleman noted. "The emergence of Linux as an operating system lets
geoscientists utilize the PC for not only conventional PC-type applications
but also for UNIX applications ported from the UNIX environment."
Costs have dropped such that an independent geologist,
consultant or small company can purchase a high-end PC-based workstation
easily in the $4,000 range. The hardware not only meets but actually
exceeds the capabilities of the UNIX systems in the market now,
"The drop in cost has opened up workstation technology
to a lot of geoscientists who didn’t have access to it before
unless they were involved with a major corporation," he said. "It’s
now much more cost effective for geoscientists to purchase hardware
to utilize software to work in the workstation environment."
In terms of course offerings, number of courses taught
annually and enrollment, the Houston-based GTTC lays claim to the
largest program among the centers both at home and abroad.
The facility hosts three computer labs and offers
more than 40 different UNIX and PC courses taught by industry professionals
who bring real-world work experience to the classroom. There also
is an Oracle training and certification preparation program for
career paths in a broad spectrum of industries.
Despite the center’s successful history in filling
a recognized need, there’s an ongoing concern over maintaining
the financial support necessary to overcome the challenges it faces.
For instance, the virtual explosion of new software applications
demands expanded curriculum and hardware capabilities. Plus, state
budget shortfalls of whatever size have a tendency to stretch the
resources of local community colleges.
In fact, funding is a challenge for all the centers,
which each have issues with their budgets, according to Coleman.
"Historically, the relationship has been for the colleges
to provide space and staff," he said, "and the partnership has been
for the software companies to provide software and, in some cases,
the technical expertise to support it.
"There has been some private industry money given
to the centers in the past," Coleman said, "but it’s primarily
a partnership between the software companies and the local universities/colleges.
"I think the future of the centers in the United States
depends on both the local professional societies and private industry."
Given the dwindling numbers of skilled oil and gas
finders and the dearth of available replacements, this type facility
could prove invaluable to the industry.
Career-transitioning geoscientists who arrive at the
corporate door schooled in the latest geoscience software applications
are prepared to hit the ground running in the search for hydrocarbons.
By the same token, these are the folks best positioned to snap up
the really cool jobs (read: high paying).
"Everybody wins," Coleman said.