Finding one’s place in an ever-changing energy landscape is no easy task, particularly for members of Generation Z, who completed at least part of their studies during the pandemic.
The AAPG Latin America and Caribbean Region’s Ready to Work Program helps young geoscientists explore options, providing them with intensive real-work training taught by energy professionals.
RTW started with 2017-19 Region President Pedro Alarcon, former Oxy and Savia executive from Lima who mentored young professionals during their transition to industry.
“I noticed that many of our students finished school with a strong educational background, but they often lacked practical skills needed to start working in companies,” he said. “We started the Ready to Work Program to prepare final-year students and recent graduates to work in any oil and gas company.”
Alarcon said he noticed a tangible improvement in the professional skills of those who completed the RTW program.
“We trained them with real oil and gas exploration and production examples, so at interview time, when applying for a junior geoscientist position, they could talk with interviewer as if they already had experience in the oil and gas industry,” he said.
The program started in Peru in 2018 and later spread to Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador. The format and subjects covered vary depending on the host country, but all of the programs share a similar model for success: industry professionals who donate instruction time, attendees chosen through a competitive process and AAPG Young Professionals chapters coordinating logistics and participant selection.
For Ana Maria Goncalves, Latin America and Caribbean Region vice president and co-founder of the Bolivia YP Chapter, the Ready to Work Program is an ideal project for YPs.
“Young professionals haven’t been out of school very long, so they can relate well to those who are finishing their studies. Those who are fortunate enough to have jobs in industry know what skills are needed and can help to make suggestions for which courses to include,” she said.
Goncalves said RTW shows the value that both AAPG and YP Chapters provide to the geoscience community.
“Sometimes we have a hard time explaining why it is important to be a part of AAPG,” she said. “Ready to Work is a practical way for members to help other geoscientists in their careers and give back to association that has done so much for them.”
Activities in Bogotá and Rio
The most recent Ready to Work programs took place in Bogotá and Rio de Janeiro and were organized by the Colombia and Brazil YP chapters.
The Colombia program ran over a one-week period and included 25 participants from Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Cucuta, Manizales, Medellín, Pitalito, Riohacha and Valledupar. The event included sessions highlighting the technical and business sides of the energy industry as well as professional development skills, including resume writing and interview preparation.
RTW Colombia 2023 received sponsorship from ACGGP, the Colombian Geological Society, Gmas Lab, GeoInglobe and took place at the University of the Andes, with a technical visit to Gmas Lab.
The Brazil program took place over a two-week period and included 20 participants from Aracajú, Campinas, Floranópolis, Niterói, Rio de Janeiro and São Goncalo. Content included lectures and courses covering seismic interpretation, petrophysics, modeling and exploration, data and programming, drilling, energy, project management and soft skills.
RTW Brazil 2023 received sponsorship from 3R Petroleum, PRIO, Ellis and ABGP and support from the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) Geology Department. Sessions took place on the auditoriums and Labsismo (Seismic Stratigraphic Interpretation Laboratory) at UERJ campus in Rio.
Benefits for Participants
Camilo Niño, final semester geological engineering student from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia – Medellín heard about the program throughout emails and social media posts published by AAPG’s Latin America and Caribbean Region and YP Colombia Chapter.
“I decided to participate in the program because I saw in it an opportunity to approach highly talented people from the industry and learn from their experience and professional and academic trajectory,” he said.
Niño, who hopes to work in renewable energies and carbon capture and storage, said RTW helps participants validate their chosen career.
“During the program I learned more about the prospecting of renewable energies, such as geothermal energy and hydrogen, and the need for CCS investigation and development,” he said.
“The RTW program is likely one of the few spaces students and young professionals have to meet people from the industry, interact with them, ask them questions, know what they are working on, what current and future challenges we will face, etc. All these things help us decide our career paths and know where our talent may be needed,” he said.
Isabelle Freitas, AAPG member and recent graduate from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) said her time at RTW was unlike anything she experienced previously.
“In two weeks, I learned a lot of things that I didn’t learn in college or internships. I met people I would never have contact with. It was all incredible,” she said.
Freitas applied to participate in RTW to broaden her knowledge of the oil and gas market.
“The courses caught my attention because training is never too much. I like to keep learning constantly,” she said.
Freitas hopes to pursue a career as an exploration geologist, both for oil and gas and CCS.
“I would like to lead an exploration team, instill my vision of interdisciplinarity within a company, attend many trainings and specialize myself more and more,” she said.
Frietas said RTW not only prepared her for future projects but also provided her with skills she can use in her internship with Katalyst Data Management.
“I learned the characteristics of turbidite reservoirs in Brazil and how they appear in seismic and well logs. This will help me in my future career, and I already was able to use this knowledge in my current internship,” she said.
Neida Ilana, doctoral student and researcher at Laboratory of Engineering and Petroleum Exploration at North Fluminense State University (UENF) applied for the RTW after hearing reports from program graduates.
“RTW is one of the most well-known programs in Brazil for career preparation for students. I have friends who participated in the past and talked a lot about the knowledge, networking and mindset change that RTW brought them, so the interest came,” she said.
Ilana’s favorite session was “Petrophysical Evaluation of Conventional Reservoirs,” taught by Gilberto Raitz, petrophysicist at the Sedimentary Geology Laboratory at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ).
“What surprised me is that most of the courses I’ve taken on this subject were taught using software, whereas in this one, the lecturer managed to make petrophysics so didactic and accessible that we only used a spreadsheet to solve exercises,” she said.
Ilana said the variety of content offered helped RTW participants prepare for a variety of careers in the energy sector.
Passing Knowledge to the Next Generation
The RTW program participation also provided a meaningful experience for speakers, some of whom participated in previous programs as organizers or attendees.
One of them was Hyalla Queiroz Valente da Silva, senior geologist at Petrobras and former Brazil YP Chapter member, who led a session about project management with an emphasis in oil and gas.
“During the session I tried to show them that we need skills other than strict geology, and we need to be open-minded,” she said.
Lucas Guimarães Monteiro, professional resident fellow at the Geological Survey of Brazil, said he was “flattered” to be invited to give a talk about Data Science, a subject he studied during graduate studies at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ).
Monteiro’s said that his talk, “Data Science course in Python applied to Geosciences,” fit well with the RTW program’s goal to prepare participants for careers in industry.
“Talking about Data Science is talking about a better way of doing our work, being more organized and consistent with our view of data,” he said.
“The considerable increase in the amount of data present in our world and the complexity of multidimensional calculations make it essential to use computing to process and understand information. My desire is to pass on knowledge so that future geologists can work with more and more volumes specializing in a little explored niche that holds great relevance for companies and academia.
Victor Ramirez, AAPG member and former AAPG Latin America and Caribbean Region president, led the RTW Colombia session on petroleum systems.
During his talk, Ramirez explained how petroleum system concepts and understanding geological processes can be applied to explore subsurface resources for the energy transition.
“We will rely on fossil fuels for a while, and the energy transition has plenty of career opportunities for the geoscientist ,” he said. “In fact, geoscience is perhaps the profession with the greatest capability to face the challenges of the energy transition.”
Ramirez said that RTW is a valuable program because it links academia with real-world experience, and it provides companies the opportunity to interact with young professionals and students.
Leticia Correa, trainee geologist at SLB, Unicamp University graduate student and 2023 RTW Brazil Program coordinator, said she appreciated the opportunity to organize the program in person. The last in-person edition took place in 2019, the year she traveled from her home in São Paulo to attend the event in Rio. Her experience motivated her to be more involved in AAPG and in the YP Chapter, where she served as Social Media and Publicity Committee coordinator from 2019-21 and president from 2021-23.
“I wanted RTW to be part of my last – at least for now – major contribution to AAPG YP Brazil, and above of all to bring the in-person event back to give other YPs and students the same chance I had in 2019,” she said.
Correa helped to organize Brazil’s 2021 RTW program, which was held online because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“The program in 2021 was great, but the online experience is not the same as in person, where people can learn and network better, create bonding, be closer to the speakers and organization team, and create great memories,” she said.
Correa said that while putting together the program was hard work, the time invested paid off.
“The organizing is challenging, with lots of time planning and acting. Thanks to the sponsors we had the opportunity to create a more structured event, which was amazing, but it was hard work. I am glad that I could count on a great team – especially Sara Gomes and Alexandre Baumhardt –and it was rewarding to watch the participants and speakers, to hear their feedback at the end of the event and know that everything went well.”
Alexandre Baumhart, AAPG Brazil YP Chapter secretary and 2019 RTW Program graduate, said he joined the 2023 organizing committee to give back some of what he received from AAPG. He said Ready to Work increased his confidence to interact with other professionals.
“I learned to never be afraid to talk to more experienced professionals, as the purpose of both sides of the conversation is always to learn and teach, and both improve their professional and personal skills,” he said.
Yulitza Parada, YP Colombia Chapter president, described organizing the 2023 RTW Program as an “incredibly rewarding” experience.
Parada, who has been involved with a variety of AAPG initiatives – including the University of Pamplona Student Chapter, the Imperial Barrel Award Program, the AAPG Women’s Networking Mentoring Program and the International Conference and Exhibition Cartagena – said she was drawn to the RTW mission of bridging the gap between academic learning and the real-world demands of the industry.
“As a member of the AAPG, I have witnessed the immense value the organization brings to the geological community. Supporting RTW allowed me to channel my passion for the organization and professional development, aligning perfectly with my belief in empowering aspiring geologists,” she said.
A Worthwhile Investment
Parada said RTW provides direct career benefits both to attendees and organizers.
“Participating in the RTW program reinforced the importance of effective communication and adaptability,” she said.
“Geology is a dynamic field, and the ability to convey complex concepts clearly while remaining open to new perspectives is vital. These skills will undoubtedly contribute to my success in future professional endeavors. It certainly expanded my network of professional contacts, updated me in knowledge and trends, generated experiences in event organization and logistics, and improved my communication and leadership skills.”
Parada encouraged organizations to sponsor RTW programs in their countries. Sponsorship covered not only the materials, lunches and coffee breaks for participants but also covered travel and lodging expenses for participants who came from other cities to join the activities.
“Companies should support the Ready to Work Program because it directly addresses the industry’s need for well-prepared and adaptable geologists. RTW equips young professionals with practical skills, industry insights, and networking opportunities, making them valuable assets to any organization. By supporting RTW, companies invest in the development of a skilled and competent geology workforce, fostering innovation and growth,” she said.
Ilana said that program sponsorship benefits companies as well as participants.
“Supporting programs that help individuals become ‘ready to work’ demonstrates a company’s commitment to the geoscience community,” she said. “Companies often have specific skill requirements that are essential for their industry, by partnering with programs that focus on developing skills, companies can ensure that the students have potential to become employees aligned with their needs.”
Parada said the corporate investment provides an impact that will last long beyond the program.
“I would like to emphasize the transformative impact that mentorship and hands-on learning can have on aspiring geologists. Engaging with programs like RTW within the AAPG community provides a unique platform to exchange knowledge, forge meaningful connections, and drive collective progress in the field of geology,” she said.
Ilana said she plans to encourage other students to participate in future editions of RTW Brazil.
“The RTW program isn’t just another course – it’s a transformative experience designed to equip you with the skills, knowledge, and mindset you need to excel in today’s job market,” she said.