The Training of Engineers -Graduate and Postgraduate
- Fraser H. Allen (Standard Oil Co.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- July 1963
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 730 - 731
- 1963. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 2 Well Completion, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training
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The subject of the type of training desirable for petroleum engineers has been discussed frequently in meetings of the Society of Petroleum Engineers. Generally speaking, undergraduate petroleum engineering training has moved from emphasis on "know- how'* to "know-why". This leaves the responsibility with the employer of instilling the "know-how" into the new engineer, and various companies face this problem in different ways. Graduate and postgraduate training are important, but in the final analysis the long-range value of the engineer will be his willingness to carry forward with a continued program of self-education.
The Undergraduate Curriculum
Undergraduate study involves the brief period of four academic years. From this we have come to expect the achievement of a broad-background training, well-founded in the pure and applied sciences, in the new mathematics and in the humanities. Industry does not expect a finished engineer to emerge from this brief training, but these basic courses represent the background from which engineers are made.
We must commend engineering schools, and their industry support through ECPD, for the vast strides and improvements which have been made in recent years in switching to the "know-why" type of engineering curriculum. This improved curriculum is now quite universally adopted by the engineering schools throughout North America. It appears that the necessity for this switch in emphasis in specifying the undergraduate curriculum is now quite well understood.
Only an engineering generation or so ago, schools endeavored to produce a "finished" engineer. This young engineering graduate generally entered industry in a business organization which was small by present-day standards. These organizations frequently had engineering staffs consisting of a few men working closely throughout the entire span of the firm's technical and operating problems. The technology of the time would not begin to hold a candle to the technical complexity of our modern-day industry, although it quite justly appeared to the professional engineers of that day to have been highly advanced.
Today our engineering effort is generally accomplished by large teams of professionals. No more do we expect the new engineering graduate to undertake alone the design of a complete rotary rig with all its related drilling and production equipment. Nor do we expect him to design a new ocean-floor well-completion installation, anymore than we would expect a human being with a slide rule to compute the gasoline tax cut out of the millions of service-station sales slips which are fed into our mechanized credit-card accounting systems. The education of an engineer in today's complex industrial society has to be the result of a progressive stepwise effort with the engineering schools forging the initial link.
Our present philosophy of engineering education calls upon industry to provide the "know-how" finish to the engineer's academic work. This highly important phase of engineering education has received relatively little attention in the recent past. As we consider this subject we must bear in mind that we are dealing with companies which differ widely in size and method of operation. Also we must keep in mind that these young men are their full-time employees.
Generally the new engineering graduates comprise only a small segment of the total payroll. Many employers feel that they must maintain a high degree of uniformity in dealing with all personnel, both hourly-paid and professional. It is obvious that we cannot apply the basic approach of the ECPD accreditation program in dealing with this portion of engineering education. Still the engineering profession can profit, both now and in the future, from some careful attention to this increasingly essential phase of our evolving scheme of engineering education.
Citing a few specific instances will demonstrate the meaning and importance of the industrial phase of post-graduate engineering education: 1. A graduate who reports, "I learned more in the first six months after I got out of school than I did in all four years on the campus." 2. The independent oilman who is looking for an engineering graduate a few years out of school whom he can hire from a major oil company to help him run his business. (In my own company, we still look back with considerable chagrin at the audacity of one independent who placed an advertisement in the help-wanted section of a trade journal indicating "Pan American engineer preferred".)
3. The man in an engineering classification who comments that he can make quite a good living without having to actually make use of all of that mathematics and chemistry learned in school. 4. The observation that the great bulk of engineering papers written by men in the operating phase of industry are published during the first five years after they leave the campus. 5. The engineering professor who complains that "We train them as engineers, and industry uses them as clerks". 6. The frequently heard advice that an engineering graduate should work for a year or so in industry before entering graduate school. Some of these observations are causes, others are effects; however, all relate to the problems and frequent misunderstanding of the essential role which industry assumes when we request our engineering schools to teach just the basics and let industry see the job to completion from there.
Company Training Programs
Our corporate, industrial organizations vary greatly in their approach to the postgraduate training of the new engineering graduate. Some large and very successful concerns have no formality whatsoever to their training programs. These seem to operate more or less by letting nature take its course. Some surprisingly good engineers are developed in this type of environment.
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