Terri-Jane Yuzda

Geoscience Centre Helps
Industry and Professionals
In Challenging Times

Freelance Writer

GPDC Director Rudi Meyer, P.Geol., and the centre's computer-equipped classroom.


Today more than ever, continuing education is a must for geoscience professionals seeking ways to thrive in their careers. Yet with fewer companies offering n-house training programs, upgrading can be difficult. At the same time, the oil and gas industry faces major challenges of its own, including the advancing age of its workforce and a dearth of qualified technical workers.


* The GPDC is jointly sponsored by the University of Calgary, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, APEGGA, the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists, and the Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists.

* With the exception of GPDC director Rudi Meyer, P.Geol., GPDC technical committee members are volunteers. The committee handles a variety of responsibilities including overseeing the choice of courses, contacting potential instructors and reviewing course proposals.

* Eight industry representatives, including a representative from the CSPG, one from the CSEG and one from the AAPG, sit on the Technical Committee, along with two representatives from the U of C - Dr. Meyer and the U of C's Exploration Geophysics chair, Dr. Don Lawton, P.Geoph., of the U of C's Department of Geology and Geophysics.


To date, GPDC course participants have come from a variety of workplace environments including

  • Large oil and gas firms, about 45 per cent
  • Medium and small oil and gas firms, 40 per cent
  • Consultants and contractors, five per cent
  • Individuals without a stated affiliation, 10 per cent


  • Practical Sequence Stratigraphy: Concepts and Applications, May 6 - 7
  • Integrating Production Geology and Engineering
  • Applications, April 28 - May 1
  • Structural Geology of the Cordilleran Foothills and Front Ranges, Alberta and B.C., May 21 - 22
  • Subsurface Mapping and Contouring Using a PC, May 20-22, 27-29 (two hours each evening)



This is where the University of Calgary's Geoscience Professional Development Centre can help. The first such facility in Canada, the GPDC was created to meet the training needs of mid-career petroleum industry professionals. It provides high quality, low-cost courses in a range of cross-disciplinary geoscience topics applied to petroleum exploration, reservoir characterization and exploitation.
Up and running since 2001, the GPDC is still young. But it has the potential to significantly meet the professional development needs of geoscientists in Calgary and across Alberta, says Dr. Larry Lines, P.Geoph., head of the U of C's Department of Geology and Geophysics.

And the centre's role goes beyond helping individual professionals, he says. "I think the centre really allows the University of Calgary to provide a service to the industry at large," says Dr. Lines.
The centre focuses on providing students with the latest knowledge in geoscience sub-disciplines. It also helps them stay current in their use of interpretive software, which is essential in today's highly competitive oil and gas industry.

The GPDC offers an economical way to send workers to courses (fees range from $200 to $300 per day) or for third parties to rent the facility and provide their own programs. The centre boasts 20 high-end PC computers, a laser printer and an LCD projector.
Instructors come from Calgary and around the world. The GPDC focuses on bringing in the best instructors from private industry, in addition to drawing on the talent within the U of C's Department of Geology and Geophysics.

The centre isn't the only game around - a number of other organizations also teach applied geoscience courses. "What singles us out, because of our lab, is our capability to teach computer-based courses," explains Rudi Meyer, P.Geol., the GPDC's director as well as a U of C assistant professor in petroleum geology.

The GPDC dedicates considerable energy to developing computer-based courses. "We find that because we have to develop some of the courses, it takes a bit of time - and it's not just development time; it's also finding someone willing to do the development work," Mr. Meyer notes.

Still, the director is pleased with the centre's progress. Since February 2001, the GPDC has presented a variety of courses, ranging from Carbonate Exploration in Western Canada and Depth Imaging of Foothills Seismic Data, to Integrating Production Geology with Engineering Concepts. In all, 143 industry professionals have enrolled in GPDC courses between 2001 and 2002.

One of them is Tom Charuk, P.Geol., senior geologist at Real Resources Inc. "I think it's a great thing that these guys decided to start this for industry. I think there was a bit of a hole that needed to be filled."

Mr. Charuk took the GPDC's Evaluation of Canadian Oil and Gas Properties course a year ago. The evening schedule "was ideal for me," says Mr. Charuk, noting that if he'd had to take time off work to attend the course, it wouldn't have been as easy.

The content was right, too. "I think it's going to be invaluable down the road."

As a geological professional, being able to evaluate oil and gas properties objectively is "a pretty good strength to have, so I'm not necessarily reliant on engineers to do it for me," explains Mr. Charuk, who has worked in the energy industry for about eight years. He's keeping an eye out for other GPDC courses to help him even more.
For geological consultant John Davey, P.Geol., a GPDC course on practical sequence stratigraphy provided a good mix of theoretical knowledge, exercises and practical applications. "I found it pretty valuable," says Mr. Davey, a 27-year veteran of the oil and gas industry.

Mr. Davey has been able to revisit older projects and look at them in a new light. That opens up the possibility of new exploration leads - ones that, without the course, he might not have known existed.
Another plus was the concentrated workload in a short timeframe, Mr. Davey says. "It was an easy way to integrate some upgrading into your schedule without a long-term time commitment."

These are a few of the reasons the GPDC is making steady progress in reaching out to the geoscience community. "The university has put a lot of effort into championing this," says Barbara Young, human resources director at Dominion Exploration Canada Ltd. She was involved in the GPDC's formation and now serves as a member of its technical committee.

"It's a going concern. We've had almost every company in the city involved in the training programs we've offered," Ms. Young says.
That interest bodes well for the future, she adds, because the oil and gas industry needs to support continuing education for geoscientists to ensure its very survival.

Because of the scarcity of qualified applicants, companies are finding it increasingly difficult to hire technical workers, Ms. Young says. At the same time, graduates face a tough slog landing a job because many firms don't provide training in-house and are only looking for experienced personnel.

"Somebody has got to look after bringing in new people," Ms. Young emphasizes. For its part, the GPDC must build ongoing links with industry to ensure it delivers what industry needs.

Establishing closer connections with industry can only benefit the GPDC and the U of C - with a potential for other collaborations down the road. Right now, the centre wants to broaden its range of courses to encourage increased enrolment.

But the centre's proponents are looking beyond that. Perhaps in a couple of years, they say, the GPDC will offer a program comprehensive enough to award certificates of specialization.


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