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Title: The skills crisis in the pipeline sector of the oil and gas business
Category: Technical papers from the Journal of Pipeline Engineering
Downloadable: Yes 
Project No.:
Research Agency:
Catalog No.: 2142s
Date of Publication: September, 2008
Price: $25.00 US
Authors: Professor Phil Hopkins
Abstract: OIL PRICES are now (July 2008) passing the $140/barrel mark, and the demand for fossil fuels is predicted to increase rapidly over the next 25 years. The oil majors, such as Exxon Mobil, are recording record profits, and pipelines, the international oil and gas transportation system, are expanding. We would expect this successful and growing oil and gas industry to be attractive to young staff, but it is not: the average age of a worker in the business is over 50, and we are producing less and less engineers in the developed world.

This paper investigates the problem of the ageing workforce in the oil and gas industry and the pipeline business, and attempts to explain why the industry is unattractive to young engineers, and the resulting importance of recruiting new staff and training existing staff. It then covers the current education and training of pipeline engineers, and notes that the situation has been summarized in one review as ‘dire’. The current courses offered by universities on pipeline engineering are reviewed, then the education requirements for pipeline engineers are listed. It concludes that there is labour and skills crisis in the oil and gas sector, and there are very limited formal education and training courses for pipeline engineers. It suggests that the industry and universities must work together to attract young people to tailored courses that satisfy skill shortages. Industry must take the lead and invest in universities willing and able to offer pipeline engineering education. The paper emphasizes the role of structured, modular learning packages for both university courses and continuous professional development. The Internet offers unlimited facilities for distance learning, and today’s students and existing staff expect and need modern learning methods.

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