To sustain the energy needs of the world you need people - more specifically specialists - who will carry the ball and push the envelope of technology further. How do you develop young engineers and scientists to become productive specialists? This paper presents a success story of a "Specialist Development Program (SDP)," implemented at Saudi Aramco that can be the basis for others to follow. It highlights the "mentor-mentee" relationship, the bedrock for the hugely successful program1.

The program was established several years ago with the objectives of providing qualified Saudi engineers and scientists with an opportunity to become engineering/scientific specialists, and providing the company with high-level technical expertise in the specialties for which the company has a critical need. The program has a structured, streamlined, and phased career path for identified specialties, attracting qualified candidates and matching them with the most appropriate mentors. This strategy ensures candidates obtain the required experience, further education and exposure for their chosen specialty. The program serves as a roadmap for optimizing the professional growth and advancement of candidates. It is also sufficiently flexible to respond to candidates' training and work requirements, while enabling them to achieve higher levels of competence and productivity. This paper highlights the salient features of the unique and successful development program, focusing on the mentor-mentee relationship. It describes the program, the current specialties, mentee and mentor requirements, roles and responsibilities, criteria for graduation, and tracking.


The world is hungry for energy and people are needed to deliver it. In recent years the E&P industry has been plagued by a maturing workforce, resulting in a shortage of professionals by any metric or statistic2–6. This paper highlights a success story at Saudi Aramco in training and developing a new generation of specialists.

The Oxford Dictionary defines a specialist as "a person who is highly skilled or knowledgeable in a particular field". A typical engineering specialist has a professional degree in his field of expertise, with over 10 to 15 years of experience. The specialist is able to handle complex operations and solve field problems using a combination of technical ability, research, dedication, experience, and knowledge. He is a subject matter expert, source of technical expertise, provides consultations, and is current on technological developments in his area of specialty. He is often known worldwide through his technical publications, and participation in technical conferences, standards committees, and professional societies.

Building a specialized workforce requires the design and implementation of clear and comprehensive plans for skills development7. In Saudi Aramco, the SDP has career path for every specialty with defined phases for the candidate to follow. A well-defined career path is important because formal training programs often attract the most ambitious young graduate engineers8.

Every candidate in the SDP has a mentor to guide him through the development process successfully. Mentoring is an important part of the learning process and one of the most effective methods for skill transfer9. Mentoring is performed by someone who has achieved a level of expertise exceeding that of the one being mentored. Mentoring is important for effective and reliable transfer of corporate culture, relationships, and knowledge10.

An effective training program in parallel with the right polices will maximize the value of the human resources investment. This will close the gaps that oil and gas industry has to deliver the energy to the hungry market11–13.

The Specialist Development Program

Saudi Aramco recognizes the vital role specialists play in its operations and in delivering energy to the world. In a bid to streamline the development of these specialists, the company has implemented the Specialist Development Program or SDP1. There are several variants of the program currently in place in different organizations within the company, based on each organization's specific needs. This paper discusses one of the programs that have been very successful in graduating specialists.

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