The Role of the Small Petroleum Engineering Department
- E.W. Hough (Mississippi State U.) | H.C. Simrall (Mississippi State U.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- September 1962
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 1,008 - 1,009
- 1962. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training
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- 130 since 2007
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Editor's Note: In an article published in the Jan., 1962, issue of JPT entitled "Petroleum Engineering Where Does It Go from Here?", John M. Campbell pointed out: "No school can operate really effectively at a high academic level with less than 30 to 40 students in each of the graduating classes. For a well-rounded staff of five or six, 50 to 60 students are needed." The author of the following article takes excepting to this philosophy and points out the advantages of the small petroleum engineering school both to the student and to the industry.
Cause of the Decline in PE Enrollments
Then: has been much prediction and self-examination by the petroleum engineering profession-and by the educators in particular-since Jan., 1958, when a number of petroleum companies temporarily stopped hiring petroleum engineers (and other employees). This was the end of an eight-year cycle given impulse in 1950 by a government report which stated that the U. S. was producing too many engineers. The shortage of petroleum engineers that developed in 1954 is well known, followed by the largest class in petroleum engineering history in 1958. It is interesting to note that the same shortage of graduates in all other fields of engineering occurred in 1954, followed by one of the largest engineering graduating classes in history in 1958. Since that time, there has been an over-all decline in engineering enrollment in the U. S., in spite of a net increase in a few colleges. The decline has been unusually large in petroleum engineering because of the curtailment of the employment of all engineers by a number of oil companies. However, there is a trend toward reduced enrollment and, thus, a decline in total graduates in all engineering fields. This trend has caused concern by all engineering colleges and departments and by all the engineering technical and professional societies. Industry has expressed concern on many occasions. Was it all as bad as you would believe if you read only the newspapers or if you listened to the story of a member of the class of 1958? From one of the authors' vantage points, the situation looked relatively favorable. The class of the calendar year of 1958 at The U. of Texas was the largest in the history of the department 110. All the June graduates (who wanted them) had positions by July 1. Each one did not have a large number of offers; however, one is adequate. In 1959, there were 108 graduates, and all the June graduates had jobs by June 1. In 1960, there were 95 graduates, and the June graduates were placed several months before graduation. In 1961, the numbers were about half, or less, of the peak number and the placement date again occurred several months before graduation. Experience at Mississippi State U., and elsewhere, in other fields of engineering has been a reduction in the number of companies of all types coming to the campus since about 1958 or 1959. But there are plenty of job opportunities for all engineering graduates. There is less choice, perhaps, but still an entirely adequate number of positions. In our experience, the calamitous situation simply is not there. The story usually heard reminds one of the nursery story of Chicken Little who convinced her associates the sky was failing.
Estimated Annual Demand for PE Graduates
We believe that a dispassionate look at the need for petroleum engineers is in order. Based on the recent experience with what the market will take (there were about 700 graduates in 1958), 600 per year seems to be a reasonable number. Another way to arrive at a figure would be to estimate retirements of the membership of the SPE. Based on a 40-year working lifetime, a uniform age distribution and a membership of 16,000, the number of graduates required per year is 400. Based on such a picture, there would be a need for about 460 graduates per year (base rate), which could be distributed about as follows: four large departments at the rate of 40 seniors each per year = 160, and 20 small departments at the rate of 15 seniors each per year = 300, to yield the 460 total base rate. As an arbitrary definition, a small department is considered as one producing 15 to 25 graduates per year, and a large department 40 to 80 (or more) graduates per year. These departments (as defined) would have the capacity to equal or exceed the peak rate of 1958. Of course, there is the possibility of distributing more students to the large departments and of reducing, at least to an extent, administrative work and costs by elimination of small departments. The following questions need to be examined. Is bigness good for its own sake? Can a department do good work without being large? Carry these questions a little further and look at the small size of some of our best liberal arts colleges and best technical universities. The keys to good work in colleges and in departments are high-quality staff and high-calibre students. The quality of the work accomplished has little relation to the size of the department. The general theory of this lack of relation has been discussed in detail by Professor C. Northcote Parkinson.
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