Benjamín de la Cueva
Golfo Energy
View from the Top

The Future of Oil and Gas Education

Wed, 01/18/2017 - 07:25

Q: How is the government creating incentives to encourage people to pursue oil and gas training?

A: Training is not Mexico’s strong suit yet. In the past it mainly centered on sending Mexican professionals to train abroad, which was too expensive and also created language barrier issues. The government produced a document called the Strategic Human Resources Development Program (Programa Estratégico para el Desarollo de Recursos Humanos) published by the Ministry of Energy, CONACyT and the Ministry of Education. It is the main reference for the Mexican government on training. The document stated that Mexico needs 130,000 highly trained professionals to respond to the industry’s needs for the next 40 years. Of those, 20 percent need to have higher education and 80 percent technical training. To support that program, the government implemented the CONACyT-Ministry of Energy Fund, a massive fund to support the activities and priorities of the Energy Reform. They allocated 60,000 scholarships, which include studies abroad for master’s degrees and Ph.D.s. The typical master’s scholarship is MX$2 million (US$100,000). Those 60,000 scholarships also include technical training. Unfortunately, progress in the niche of technical training is extremely slow.

Q: Where does Golfo Energy see the greatest opportunity for its services and what is its strategy to take advantage?

A: There is a large gap in the market for which we see an opportunity as a facilitator. Through our partnership with ANZ Education we recognized an existing synergy between the oil sector and education. We began to work on how we could strengthen this synergy. We have represented the top universities in Australia and New Zealand for nearly 20 years and we are now working with Scottish universities, which are some of the best in the world for oil and gas. We are trying to create a hub of the best institutions in the world for oil and gas and energy here in Mexico. 

Q: How is Golfo Energy working to fill the training gap?

A: We have been working in higher education for nearly 20 years. We send Mexican students abroad, choose the right programs for them, provide counseling and oversee the admissions process, assisting with visas, accommodations and such. This service is free for the student because we are an extension of the university. A benefit of the aforementioned scholarships is the low demand, meaning many applicants are awarded the grant if they meet the criteria.

When identifying potential applicants, we discovered they were not necessarily at top universities. In the oil and gas industry in Mexico there are over 40 institutions and many are small and almost hidden in the Gulf of Mexico. We visited them, gave talks, met program directors and offered scholarships. The biggest problem faced is the level of English language proficiency in Mexico, especially in the oil and gas sector. It is much worse than in other areas. That is partly due to where the students are located and partly because of the nationalist tradition seen in Mexico around oil. There are many talented professionals who could benefit from these scholarships, such as in subsea engineering, our most popular program, but they lack the English grades.

Q: To what extent will bringing in workers from abroad be a solution?

A: That may be expensive but it will depend on the government, regulations and the risk appetite of companies. We can contribute solutions to some of this by representing technical institutions from around the world. We have discovered that to be successful the training needs to happen in Mexico. Sending one or two engineers abroad is different to training an entire group of mechanics or welders because of language, costs and volume.

It is also expensive to bring trainers here. We need to create teams of coaches here, rather than investing in moving people around. This team can train others, creating a domino effect. This is why we are beginning to look at faster solutions. We are looking at what the Australians have done in Chile delivering programs in Spanish and we are assisting the Scottish qualification authorities.