Oil industry to launch institutes to help check manpower shortage

Oil industry to launch institutes to help check manpower shortage

Mumbai: Facing a stubborn labour shortage, the energy sector plans to groom its own talent: by launching educational institutes.

The industry has taken the first steps to start a handful of institutes for petroleum engineers and to train them in both upstream (oil and gas exploration) and downstream (refining) activities.

These initiatives, also supported by the government, could sharply increase the number of students graduating with skills specific to the oil and gas sector, starting in 2009. So far, most Indian petroleum engineers have trained either at the Indian Institute of Petroleum at Dehradun in Uttarakhand , or at the Indian School of Mines at Dhanbad in Jharkhand.

Over the next five years, the need for trained geoscientists for exploration operations alone is pegged at 6,181, said a study conducted by consultant firm PricewaterhouseCoopers for Petrofed, an association of public sector oil companies. The shortfall will be about 2,844 geoscientists. The current surpluses in some categories of geoscientists are also poised to change into an acute shortage as early as next year. According to the same study, the overall gap between availability and requirement of trained energy industry manpower in India is projected to be about 36,000 by 2019 with existing institutes unable to meet this increasing demand for technical manpower in the petroleum sector.

While the number seems small, compared to much larger shortages that other industries such as the outsourcing industry dish out, many of these jobs in the petroleum sector are highly specialized with shortages having a major impact in a sector that is a national priority.

The education initiatives mark the first of their kind for energy studies, with the largest being the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology, structured along the lines of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT). The institute is being set up in Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh, with an investment of some Rs500 crore, funded by the government and public sector oil companies.

Oil marketer Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd (BPCL) is spearheading the initiative on behalf of all the PSUs, said D.M. Reddy, executive director for BPCL human resources. He said once the institute is fully operational, it will have seven programmes offering bachelor’s in technology, six integrated master’s degrees, eight master’s in technology, along with MBA and 12 post-graduate diplomas and PhD programmes—all related to oil and gas.

Reddy, who is also the president of the board of trustees appointed by the ministry of petroleum to anchor the institute, predicts the institute—to commence in Rae Bareli and New Delhi in 2008—will emerge as the only one to comprehensively address the talent needs of the oil and gas ­industries.

“There is already a big gap (between) demand and supply for trained engineers in exploration and production (E&P) which will only widen with a growth in demand," he said. “The institute will mitigate this talent crunch." He said the institute expects to enroll 2,400 students, with 900 graduating every year. Located on a 125-acre campus, it hopes to collaborate with foreign institutes for both student and faculty exchange.

A new course has also been launched at IIT Bombay, focusing on specialized skills for the petroleum industry. “Earlier, we had a post-graduate programme in geo-exploration and some of these graduates would join the oil and gas industry," said P.K. Saraswati, head, department of earth sciences. “But, because of the growing demand for specialized skills, we decided to launch an M.Tech programme in petroleum geosciences from this year onwards."

The IIT course is supported by energy company BG India Ltd, a part of BG Group Plc. The company will provide funds for visiting faculty from global institutes in the field as well as fund two students. It will also support the institute’s laboratory to develop facilities in petroleum geoscience.

IIT Bombay may look at expanding its scope of collaboration with the industry for this programme.

“This course cannot be offered in isolation. We have to work with the industry," said Saraswati.

In addition, a few private institutes, such as the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies in Dehradun and the Deen Dayal Institute in Ahmedabad, have recently started offering courses also. Reliance Industries Ltd is also planning two dedicated institutes for training engineers in upstream and downstream operations.

The talent crunch faced by the industry is here to stay, said Puneet Singh, a partner in Executive Access, a headhunting firm with an oil and gas practice. “The move to set up new training for the sector institutes will certainly mitigate the talent crunch at the entry level," he said. “But, in the short term, public sector companies will continue to lose people at midddle and senior levels."