Vinicio Suro
Director General

Anticipating the Fierce Competition for Talent

Wed, 01/22/2014 - 17:40

The opening of the Mexican oil and gas industry will rapidly boost the demand for specialized human capital to cater to growing exploration and production activities. Developing the appropriate strategy to manage this demand is critical to both PEMEX and IMP, especially given that fierce competition is about to enter an industry that has remained relatively stagnant due to its previously monopolistic conditions. For Vinicio Suro, Director General of IMP, developing talent for upcoming challenges is a never-ending task. “Talent is something we work on every day and we are putting our resources were we see there is a need. Our institutions need young people to prepare for upcoming challenges, so IMP is recruiting professionals that can become the industry’s future bastions of research. We make an effort to continuously invest in people with potential.” But the learning process does not stop at the end of a degree or an academic year. Óscar Valle Molina, Former Coordinator of Deepwater R&D Program of IMP, recalls his experience being part of the pioneering IMP team that decided to immerse itself in deepwater research back in 1984. “When Mexico did not have deepwater fields, we learned through collaborative Joint Industry Programs (JIPs) with other countries’ operators that had already started to work in deepwater,” he says. He highlights that it is through collaboration with other companies, institutions, and universities that IMP amassed the wealth of deepwater experience it now possesses.

Amongst other examples, Valle Molina lists the development cases of Brazil, Norway, the US, and France where governments fostered joint strategies to bring together inputs from higher education institutions and oil and gas companies in order to spark new approaches to R&D. “IMP has already reached out to various Mexican universities, and PEMEX has put some effort into discovering the various specialties of each university,” Valle Molina says. “This will help us to address different problems through graduates coming from a wide range of universities.” Valle Molina believes that the country has narrowed its programs to cater to specific specializations needed to tackle well-known upstream challenges. “Universities with an extensive oil background are tied to shallow water and onshore talent development,” he claims. “What we need to do is to motivate those schools to venture into programs focused on deepwater.” Valle Molina believes both an education effort and a sensitization program need to be executed to make the transition easier, given the fact that universities will have to restructure their whole syllabus to address issues inherent to deepwater projects. Researchers that have devoted their lives to these matters would have a hard time changing focus. “The National Researcher System gives ranks to each of its members, every level gained from zero denotes a certain experience,” Valle Molina explains. “If an expert researcher in shallow water was to change focus to deepwaters, he would have to start from scratch, back at level zero.”

“One of the engineering programs we are looking at is the degree in naval engineering at Universidad Veracruzana. This school’s program is has an extensive overlap with the oil and gas offshore segment’s technical demands,” explains Valle Molina, noting that all the components and equipment within offshore installations float. “Their knowledge will be required when designing deepwater production facilities.” IMP has also helped the university create a Master’s program in Ocean Systems, which is trains students in specific needs pertaining to deepwater metocean conditions for the design of platforms, pipelines, and other production systems. “In order to prepare our skilled human resources for the obstacles that will be encountered in deepwater E&P, our Mexican talent should be encouraged to study in other countries like Brazil, Norway, England, the US, or France,” he stresses out. “It is important to highlight that by doing this, students would be in constant interaction with the local industry’s practices and technological applications, which in return would allow for that knowledge to come back to Mexico and be optimized in local operations.”

In the long run, the development of talent and the creation of mechanisms to increase specialization programs will help the country advance in facing its deepwater challenges. IMP will continue to help PEMEX in the attainment of the industry’s goals, whether from the inside, or through the provision of technology services. Suro also highlights that defined career paths should become a reality within the industry’s main Mexican players, in order to provide engineers and scientists with much needed economic stability when participating in new R&D endeavors in Mexico’s hydrocarbon reservoirs. After all, Suro says, that it is those researchers with a wider perspective on the different challenges that the industry will have to overcome to reach the 3.5 million b/d production goal established by the Energy Reform. “PEMEX should be taking care of maximizing its production, while IMP provides it with all the necessary tools for innovative solutions to emerge,” Valle Molina urges. “Most large IOCs handle this process very similarly by having an R&D division that delivers technological applications that match their projects’ demands. I cannot stress it enough: collaboration and in-house technology development lead to success.”