By Sarah Byrne

A SKILLS gap in the oil and gas industry has according to Curtin’s Chevron professor of petroleum geology Chris Elders, resulted in the university revising its Master of Science (Geology) course for students starting this year.

Speaking with Oil and Gas Australia, Professor Elders said a skills gap has been a problem faced by the industry for the past 10 years and is a result of companies losing staff during a previous period of low oil prices, leaving a gap in the workforce profile.

“A lot of people aged between 50 and 65 will be retiring, leaving a big gap in the demographic profile and with people coming in at a more junior level of the company, there aren’t enough skilled employees to fill the gaps generated by these retirements,” he said.

Despite current low oil prices, Professor Elders said he hoped companies would “hold their nerve a bit more this time” and maintain a more even age profile on staff.

The course has been revamped based on industry feedback and will run over three semesters for students starting in February and July this year.

“The important thing is to provide students with the right skills so they can very quickly learn from the older generations of people while they are still working in the industry,” Professor Elders said.

Offering practical training and addressing problems people may encounter in their professional careers, the course provides students with the opportunity to work on examples of data used in the industry.

Mr Elders said some students will complete their projects based at resources companies, while other students will remain on campus while working on problems suggested by these companies often with a company supervisor visiting the campus to assist them.

The Masters of Science (Geology) is suited to people who have a bachelor’s degree and have spent a few years working in a field based job, but might be looking to advance their qualifications to then apply for oil and gas companies’ graduate recruitment programs.

Professor Elders said completion of the course will not only advance each student’s professional career within the oil and gas industry it’s also “a passport for international employment opportunities”, a valuable attribute considering the recent delaying of projects and cuts to Australian oil and gas companies expenditure.

Curtin is expecting around 20 students to start the revised course this year.