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Last Updated: August 17, 2017
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WITH the scarcity of employment in the oil and gas industry, graduates with both soft skills and knowledge will have an edge in the competitive job market.

Tertiary students in this field are taking their own initiative to ready themselves for job recruitment upon graduation.

Felicity Valerie Karim, a 23-year-old final-year petroleum engineering student at Curtin University, said: “Fresh graduates are having difficulties in getting jobs. Be proactive and get involved in programmes in order to network and put yourself in the market,” she said.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia final-year petroleum engineering student Boshkiran Segar, 22, has always strived to gain extra skills in addition to academic knowledge.

“Students learn theories at university. In terms of practical experience, we can only earn it outside the university, through programmes and internships. Exposure and on-the-job learning enhance theories,” he said.

Concerned about employability, Felicity and Boshkiran have joined the NrgEdge Ambassador Programme crafted for students and fresh graduates interested in the energy, oil and gas industry.

The initiative encourages participants to get a head start in the sector and their career journey by getting involved in industry events and learning networking skills.

As ambassadors, students will be the bridge connecting their university and peers with the industry and its latest developments to ensure that the future generations of energy professionals are well-equipped for the transition to professional life.

The programme has received more 150 applicants from various countries to date. However, at present, only Malaysian and Bruneian applicants are accepted.

NrgEdge co-founder Malina Raman said: “This programme was put together to spread the knowledge about what the industry has to offer. Participants network at our professional events and boost their confidence by learning to speak in public. NrgEdge ambassadors also get access to career mentors for guidance on the job market, resume writing as well as skills at an interview.”

Malina added that those employed in the fast growing renewable energy sector will have to update their skills constantly.

“In the long term, the fossil fuels industry will go into a transitionary phase. Undergraduates and young professionals must understand their new prospects in the jobs market of the future. Job opportunities will be different from a decade ago, as there will be more emphasis on the downstream and petrochemicals sector, and the development and production of cleaner fossil fuels such as natural gas.

“As the economies in Malaysia and across the world continue to grow, there will be a sustained need for more energy. The skills acquired by students and young professionals today through varied engineering and scientific disciplines can be applied in the fast growing renewable energy sector.”

At the NrgEdge Ambassador Boot Camp, the first training session of the programme, trainer Siti Rasidah Mohd Shihab coached 16 students in mind-challenging activities.

Siti Rasidah, who had worked with Petronas for 25 years, sees this programme as training participants to survive in a world with fewer job openings.

“Graduates are flooding the market. They have to work at getting employment these days. Given the tough job market, they have to buck up. Things are not how they used to be.

“Previously, graduates were easily employed as soon as they graduated. This is not the case today. They have to compete and be versatile.”

The first instalment of the programme will see 31 participants taking part in a series of events to be conducted across Malaysia.

One of the ambassadors, final-year petroleum engineering student Fatin Aina Zawani Jais, 21, said that this programme gives her the chance to network with people face-to-face, a practice which is getting rare in the digitalised world.

“It is important to meet people to share opportunities and knowledge to gain exposure to the industry. We talk about issues which we don’t get to express at university. We learn about the differences in the learning environment at different tertiary institutions and the syllabi,” she said.

NrgEdge regional strategic partnerships manager Mohd Anas Asalem, who is also a graduate of the oil and gas field, said that the programme creates multi-talented employees to fill the talent gap in the sector.

“When people in the industry retire, fresh graduates cannot fill the posts because of the downturn. This has been taking place for 20 years,” he added.

NrgEdge is trying to expand its programme to Brunei, Indonesia and Thailand. This year the programme received applicants from Malaysia (40 per cent), Indonesia (18), Singapore (12), India (nine) and other countries (21).

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Royal Dutch Shell Poised To Become Just Shell

On 10 December 2021, if all goes to plan Royal Dutch Shell will become just Shell. The energy supermajor will move its headquarters from The Hague in The Netherlands to London, UK. At least three-quarters of the company’s shareholders must vote in favour of the change at the upcoming general meeting, which has been sold by Shell as a means of simplifying its corporate structure and better return value to shareholders, as well as be ‘better positioned to seize opportunities and play a leading role in the energy transition’. In doing so, it will no longer meet Dutch conditions for ‘royal’ designation, dropping a moniker that has defined the company through decades of evolution since 1907.

But why this and why now?

There is a complex web of reasons why, some internal and some external but the ultimate reason boils down to improving growth sustainability. Royal Dutch Shell was born through the merger of Shell Transport and Trading Company (based in the UK) and Royal Dutch (based in The Netherlands) in 1907, with both companies engaging in exploration activities ranging from seashells to crude oil. Unified across international borders, Royal Dutch Shell emerged as Europe’s answer to John D Rockefeller’s Standard Oil empire, as the race to exploit oil (and later natural gas) reserves spilled out over the world. Along the way, Royal Dutch Shell chalked up a number of achievements including establishing the iconic Brent field in the North Sea to striking the first commercial oil in Nigeria. Unlike Standard Oil which was dissolved into 34 smaller companies in 1911, Royal Dutch Shell remained intact, operating as two entities until 2005, when they were finally combined in a dual-nationality structure: incorporated in the UK, but residing in the Netherlands. This managed to satisfy the national claims both countries make on the supermajor, second only to ExxonMobil in revenue and profits but proved to be costly to maintain. In 2020, fellow Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Unilever also ditched its dual structure, opting to be based fully out of the City of London. In that sense, Shell is following the direction of the wind, as forces in its (soon to be former) home country turn sour.

There is a specific grievance that Royal Dutch Shell has with the Dutch government, the 15% dividend tax collected for Dutch-domiciled companies. It is the reason why Unilever abandoned Rotterdam and is now the reason why Shell is abandoning The Hague. And this point is particularly existentialist for Shell, since its share prices has been battered in recent years following the industry downturn since 2015, the global pandemic and being in the crosshairs of climate change activists as an emblem of why the world’s average temperatures are going haywire. The latter has already caused the largest Dutch state pension fund ABP to stop investing in fossil fuels, thereby divesting itself of Royal Dutch Shell. This was largely a symbolic move, but as religious figures will know, symbols themselves carry much power. To combat this, Shell has done two things. First, it has positioned itself to be at the forefront of energy transition, announcing ambitious emissions reductions plans in line with its European counterparts to become carbon neutral by 2050. Second, it is looking to bump up its dividend payouts after slashing them through the depths of the Covid-19 pandemic and accelerating share buybacks to remain the bluest of blue-chip stocks. But then, earlier this year, a Dutch court ruled that Shell’s emissions targets were ‘not ambitious enough’, ordering a stricter aim within a tighter timeframe. And the 15% dividend tax remains – even though Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s coalition government has been attempting to scrap it, with (it is presumed) some lobbying from Royal Dutch Shell and Unilever.

As simplistic it is to think that Shell is leaving for London believes the citizens of the Netherlands has turned its back on the company, the ultimate reason was the dividend tax. Reportedly, CEO Ben van Buerden called up Mark Rutte on Sunday informing him of the planned move. Rutte’s reaction, it is said was of dismay. And he embarked on a last-ditch effort to persuade Royal Dutch Shell to change its mind, by immediately lobbying his government’s coalition partners to back an abolition of the dividend tax. The reaction was perhaps not what he expected, with left-wing and green parties calling Shell’s threat ‘blackmail’. With democracy drawing a line, Shell decided to walk; or at least present an exit plan endorsed by its Board to be voted by shareholders. Many in the Netherlands see Shell’s exit and the loss of the moniker Royal Dutch – as a blow to national pride, especially since the country has been basking in the glow of expanded reputation as a result of post-Brexit migration of financial activities to Amsterdam from London. The UK, on the other hand, sees Shell’s decision and Unilever’s – as an endorsement of the country’s post-Brexit potential.

The move, if passed and in its initial stages, will be mainly structural, transferring the tax residence of Shell to London. Just ten top executives including van Buerden and CFO Jessica Uhl will be making the move to London. Three major arms – Projects and Technology, Global Upstream and Integrated Gas and Renewable Energies – will remain in The Hague. As will Shell’s massive physical reach on Dutch soil: the huge integrated refinery in Pernis, the biofuels hub in Rotterdam, the country’s first offshore wind farm and the mammoth Porthos carbon capture project that will funnel emissions from Rotterdam to be stored in empty North Sea gas fields. And Shell’s troubles with activists will still continue. British climate change activists are as, if not more aggressive as their Dutch counterpart, this being the country where Extinction Rebellion was born. Perhaps more of a threat is activist investor Third Point, which recently acquired a chunk of Shell shares and has been advocating splitting the company into two – a legacy business for fossil fuels and a futures-focused business for renewables.

So Shell’s business remains, even though its address has changed. In the grand scheme of things, never mind the small matter of Dutch national pride – Royal Dutch Shell’s roadmap to remain an investment icon and a major driver of energy transition will continue in its current form. This is a quibble about money or rather, tax – that will have little to no impact on Shell’s operations or on its ambitions. Royal Dutch Shell is poised to become just Shell. Different name and a different house, but the same contents. Unless, of course, Queen Elizabeth II decides to provide royal assent, in which case, Shell might one day become Royal British Shell.

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