BY JACQUELINE LOUIE
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
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT CENTRE
* 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
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.
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.
WHERE THE STUDENTS
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
A FEW OF UPCOMING
- 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
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
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
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.