Polish Your Workstation Skills

Experiencing Career Transition Pains?

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 employment possibilities.

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 Houston.

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.

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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 employment possibilities.

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 Houston.

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."

New Possibilities

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:

  • Dallas.
  • Midland, Texas.
  • Bakersfield, Calif.
  • Denver.
  • 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," Coleman said.

The current computing environment makes the GTTC particularly relevant.

"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, Coleman noted.

"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."

Challenges

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.

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