At a time when the geoscience job market is suffering from low demand and fewer jobs, the Middle East is hungry for petroleum geoscientists.
Commercial hydrocarbons were first discovered in the Middle East by British and American geoscientists. As time progressed and the rights to those resources slowly transitioned to the people of the land, this came to be reflected in its employment opportunities. Middle Eastern universities started offering petroleum-oriented disciplines to supply the job market with the educated local workforce that the energy sector needed. In addition, scholarship programs by the then recently nationalized energy companies were established to educate youth in petroleum-related disciplines, particularly, petroleum geosciences and engineering. Due to this, the Middle East uniquely was and is looking for local, skilled and competitively proficient petroleum geoscientists.
Immense yet-to-be-found resources of the Middle East create this need for a skilled workforce to look for new potential in previously unexplored remote frontier areas.
Cultural Misconceptions and the Role of Geosciences
Middle Eastern nations have always favored traditional options of employment, such as working for the government, the educational sector or the health sector. This is because these jobs have been stable and proven to be culturally and socially respectable. When the energy sector grew, the first profession that stood out to locals was engineering. If you ask most mothers in the Middle East what profession they hope their children will attain in the future, it would be a doctor or an engineer.
This has strongly affected the appeal of geoscience to the youth, leading many to underestimate the role of geoscience in the energy sector job market. This has also fueled demand in the Middle East for passionate young petroleum geoscientists.
Investing in Tomorrow’s Geoscientists
So, what is being done to encourage the youth to pursue petroleum geoscience in the Middle East?
There are localization laws in place that cost companies more to operate in the short term, but in the longer term encourage investment in the next generation of young petroleum geoscientists.
For example, the exploration branch of Saudi Aramco – in addition to its main role of expanding the kingdom’s conventional and unconventional oil and gas resource, it also leads and contributes to many geoscience education programs that aim to encourage geoscience as a future career option in the mind of the youth.
STEMania is an after-school Aramco collaboration with the Ministry of Education to introduce science, technology, engineering and math fields, including geoscience, to students in elementary though middle school. The Mawheba-Tumouh (“Aspiring Talents”) summer program on the other hand, targets the top 1-percent of high school students and teaches a full curriculum of Arabian Peninsula geoscience and petroleum exploration concepts developed by explorationists in Aramco, otherwise inaccessible to students of that age, with the sole goal to motivate them toward a career in petroleum geosciences. Furthermore, Aramco offers scholarships to the world’s top 30 leading geoscience programs to new high school graduates, while heavily investing in educational petroleum geoscience competitions – mainly the AAPG Imperial Barrel Award competition.
These efforts are mirrored by many other energy companies in the Middle East.