The Geo People
10 Sep 2006
PESGB London Evening Lecture, October 2006

PESGB London Group meeting on 10 October will have for its London Evening Lecture: 'Geoscience Careers, are they worth it'? by Chris Elders & Nick Sille (Royal Holloway, University of London).

Chris Elders from the department of Geology at Royal Holloway will be our evening lecturer. His topic will be “Geoscience careers – are they worth it, and how best to recruit?”

Chris Elders has spent 20 years at Royal Holloway, primarily responsible for running the MSc in Petroleum Geoscience, which, by the end of his time there, was delivered on campus, by distance learning and in Russia, through a partnership with Tyumen State Oil and Gas University.  Prior to that he spent four years as an exploration geologist with Shell in the Netherlands which folowed the completion of undergardaute and postgraduate degrees at Oxford University.

Below is an abstract from the lecture by Chris Elders & Nick Sille.

"The sustained high oil price has created a buoyant job market and an air of optimism that has been sorely lacking in recent years. This has not always been the case, and coming so soon after the 1998 oil price crash and the subsequent sustained period of acquisitions and mergers, the industry still has something of a “hire and fire” reputation. But how fair a reputation is this? At Royal Holloway we are celebrating 21 years of graduate and postgraduate training. During this time 355 MSc students and 180 PhD students have completed our courses, providing a representative cross section of people employed in the industry. In terms of the jobs that people get immediately after graduating there is a remarkably close correlation between oil price and the proportion of students entering the hydrocarbon industry.

The proportion of students remaining in Geosciences remains fairly constant, however, suggesting that when times are tough people are more inclined to stay on for further training, or to take some other temporary work until the job market picks up, But what of their subsequent careers? A career in the oil industry appears to be a lot more stable than might be imagined. Over the 21 year period a staggering 80% of students who have entered the industry on graduation are still employed within it. While more recent graduates clearly help to keep these figures high, they are minimum estimates in that those with whom we have lost contact are assumed to have left the industry. However, retention rates of 80% can be traced back to cohorts of students that graduated 15 years ago and even as much as 100% for students that graduated 20 years ago. Apart from in the immediate aftermath of the 1998 oil price crash, it has never dropped below 50%. So, although you may have survived, staying with the same company is much less likely. There is an almost linear relationship stretching back 8 years between length of time in the industry and the percentage of people who now work for a different company to that which they joined on graduation. Longer in the industry than that, and between 80 and 100% of any year group will have changed jobs at least once, apart from those lucky enough to have joined the industry in the late 1980’s. The proportion of people who remain with large multinationals remains fairly constant, whilst there is a net drift from consultancy companies to the smaller independents. These figures suggest that with good training and a willingness to be flexible, the oil industry offers good long term career prospects. This is a vital message to get across to students and school leavers as the current buoyant state of the industry has highlighted a growing shortage of suitably qualified graduates. Faced with the prospect of higher tuition fees in England at least, students are thinking much more about future earnings potential when making degree and career choices. A positive message from the oil industry may help to stem the long term decline in number of students applying to study Geoscience subjects at university. The buoyant job market also provides a challenge for those whose company role involves in Graduate Recruitment.

What attracts students, what attracts the best students, and what puts students off? Generally it is insights into the work that they might do, and the more personal and human, rather than the corporate aspects of a job that will appeal. Over the past 13 years at Royal Holloway, I have been able to enjoy listening to a variety of to recruitment talks and graduate presentations, and I will share with you some of the things that work, and some the things that don’t. Having said that, there is not a magic formula, and variety and distinctiveness are important too. This research was funded by a grant from the Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences which is gratefully acknowledged."

Andrea Collins, a director of The Geo People, will be attending the lecture and looks forward to meeting you there.

PESGB London Group Meeting is at 18:00 at Geological Society, Burlington House, London.

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