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Heriot-Watt University Malaysia recently hosted 70 industry leaders, academics, alumni and students at its “Petroleum Revolution 4.0: Watt’s Next?” forum, which discussed how disruptive technologies and challenges in the industry are creating opportunities to enhance how we educate and prepare students for petroleum engineering jobs of the future. Panellists from the oil and gas sector emphasised the viability of a career in petroleum engineering following the rise in oil prices, coupled with the industry revolution and the fact that we still have 300 years’ worth of petroleum resources in the ground.

While there has been some disruption in the field over the past few years following a slump in oil prices, the oil and gas industry has been adapting and exploring new opportunities. Currently, 58,000 petroleum engineering jobs are being advertised on a leading recruitment website, hardly a sign of an industry in decline.

Indeed, investment in developing new talent is still significant, and courses embedding new technologies and engaging with industry are essential to ensure that universities deliver work-ready graduates and Malaysia has the skilled workforce to remain a global leader in petroleum production.

“Energy demand will continue to increase as it is driven by large population growth (estimated nine billion people by 2040; an additional 2.5 billion people in the next two decades). Therefore, the future will require graduates to explore effective methods to lower costs and squeeze more value from mature assets, as well as discovering ways to exploit new remote and more difficult resources,” elucidated industry panellist Azmel Rasheed.

Dr Khalik Mohamad Sabil, Associate Head for the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society (EGIS) at Heriot-Watt University Malaysia, asked: “In an era where robots can do almost everything that humans can, will future graduates be ready to undertake the challenges in the petroleum industry?”

Mr Max Padolyak of Core Laboratories emphasised that with the adoption of technology “we are drowning in big data, but starving for knowledge”. The development of tools for big data management, with the assistance of artificial intelligence, provides support for increasing operations, but human capabilities are still extremely essential in the decision-making process. Universities need to develop graduates with appealing soft-skills, including effective communications and critical thinking skills, as well as the ability to adapt to change and to constantly update and advance their knowledge and skills to meet industrial technological advancements.

Mr Rohaizad Darus (centre) speaking during Heriot-Watt’s Petroleum Revolution 4.0 forum as the University’ Director for research Prof Lynne Jack (far left), Dr Khalik Mohamad Sabil (next to her) and other industry panellists listen on.

Mr Rohaizad Darus, President of Velesto Energy Berhad, believes that instilling resilience and emotional intelligence as key components within curriculums is essential. “The Industry needs people who think out-of-the-box – those who can implement the Blue Ocean Strategy and who dare to be different.”

Although renewable energy production will increase, it will complement the petroleum industry – which will remain the biggest energy supplier over the next 30 years – and not overtake it. In response to the upturn in demand for skilled petroleum engineers, the University has announced a joint scholarship for undergraduate students. The Heriot-Watt – Velesto Petroleum Engineering scholarship offers high-achieving students – with at least 2As and 1B at A-Levels or equivalent – scholarships worth 50% to 100% for its September 2018 intake.

To find out more about the university’s Engineering programmes, Heriot-Watt – Velesto Petroleum Engineering scholarship, as well as other programmes or scholarships on offer, visit its campus during its Open Days or during consultation hours from 9am to 5pm on Mondays to Fridays, and 10am to 4pm on Saturdays. Alternatively, log on to www.hw.edu.my or call +603 8894 3888/e-mail hwum@hw.ac.uk.

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