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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Two acquisitions in the energy sector were announced in the last week that illustrate the growing divergence in approaching the future of oil and gas between Europe and the USA. In France, Total announced that it had bought Fonroche Biogaz, the market leader in the production of renewable gas in France. In North America, ConocoPhillips completed its acquisition of Concho Resources, deepening the upstream major’s foothold into the lucrative Permian Basin and its shale riches. One is heading towards renewables, and the other is doubling down on conventional oil and gas.
What does this say about the direction of the energy industry?
Total’s move is unsurprising. Like almost all of its European peers operating in the oil and gas sector, Total has announced ambitious targets to become carbon-neutral by 2050. It is an ambition supported by the European population and pushed for by European governments, so in that sense, Total is following the wishes of its investors and stakeholders – just like BP, Shell, Repsol, Eni and others are doing. Fonroche Biogaz is therefore a canny acquisition. The company designs, builds and operates anaerobic digestion units that convert organic waste such as farming manure into biomethane to serve a gas feedstock for power generation. Fonroche Biogaz already has close to 500 GWh of installed capacity through seven power generation units with four in the pipeline. This feeds into Total’s recent moves to expand its renewable power generation capacity, with the stated intention of increasing the group’s biomethane capacity to 1.5 terawatts per hour (TWh) by 2025. Through this, Total vaults into a leading position within the renewable gas market in Europe, which is already active through affiliates such as Méthanergy, PitPoint and Clean Energy.
In parallel to this move, Total also announced that it has decided not to renew its membership in the American Petroleum Institute for 2021. Citing that it is only ‘partially aligned’ with the API on climate change issues in the past, Total has now decided that those positions have now ‘diverged’ particularly on rolling back methane emission regulations, carbon pricing and decarbonising transport. The French supermajor is not alone in its stance. BP, which has ditched the supermajor moniker in favour of turning itself into a clean energy giant, has also expressed reservations over the API’s stance over climate issues, and may very well choose to resign from the trade group as well. Other European upstream players might follow suit.
However, the core of the API will remain American energy firms. And the stance among these companies remains pro-oil and gas, despite shareholder pressure to bring climate issues and clean energy to the forefront. While the likes of ExxonMobil and Chevron have balanced significant investments into prolific shale patches in North America with public overtures to embrace renewables, no major US firm has made a public commitment to a carbon-neutral future as their European counterparts have. And so ConocoPhillips acquisition of Concho Resources, which boosts its value to some US$60 billion is not an outlier, but a preview of the ongoing consolidation happening in US shale as the free-for-all days give way to big boy acquisitions following the price-upheaval there since 2019.
That could change. In fact, it will change. The incoming Biden administration marks a significant break from the Trump administration’s embrace of oil and gas. Instead of opening of protected federal lands to exploration, especially in Alaska and sensitive coastal areas and loosening environmental regulations, the US will now pivot to putting climate change at the top of the agenda. Although political realities may water it down, the progressive faction of the Democrats are pushing for a Green New Deal embracing sustainability as the future for the US. Biden has already hinted that he may cancel the controversial and long-running Keystone XL pipeline via executive order on his first day in the office. His nominees for key positions including the Department of the Interior, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency and Council on Environmental Quality suggest that there will be a major push on low-carbon and renewable initiatives, at least for the next 4 years. A pledge to reach net zero fossil fuel emissions from the power sector by 2035 has been mooted. More will come.
The landscape is changing. But the two approaches still apply, the aggressive acceleration adopted by European majors, and the slower movement favoured by US firms. Political changes in the USA might hasten the change, but it is unlikely that convergence will happen anytime soon. There is room in the world for both approaches for now, but the future seems inevitable. It just depends on how energy companies want to get there.
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In its January Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects global demand for petroleum liquids will be greater than global supply in 2021, especially during the first quarter, leading to inventory draws. As a result, EIA expects the price of Brent crude oil to increase from its December 2020 average of $50 per barrel (b) to an average of $56/b in the first quarter of 2021. The Brent price is then expected to average between $51/b and $54/b on a quarterly basis through 2022.
EIA expects that growth in crude oil production from members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and partner countries (OPEC+) will be limited because of a multilateral agreement to limit production. Saudi Arabia announced that it would voluntarily cut production by an additional 1.0 million b/d during February and March. Even with this cut, EIA expects OPEC to produce more oil than it did last year, forecasting that crude oil production from OPEC will average 27.2 million b/d in 2021, up from an estimated 25.6 million b/d in 2020.
EIA forecasts that U.S. crude oil production in the Lower 48 states—excluding the Gulf of Mexico—will decline in the first quarter of 2021 before increasing through the end of 2022. In 2021, EIA expects crude oil production in this region will average 8.9 million b/d and total U.S. crude oil production will average 11.1 million b/d, which is less than 2020 production.
EIA expects that responses to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases will continue to limit global oil demand in the first half of 2021. Based on global macroeconomic forecasts from Oxford Economics, however, EIA forecasts that global gross domestic product will grow by 5.4% in 2021 and by 4.3% in 2022, leading to energy consumption growth. EIA forecasts that global consumption of liquid fuels will average 97.8 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2021 and 101.1 million b/d in 2022, only slightly less than the 2019 average of 101.2 million b/d.
EIA expects global inventory draws will contribute to forecast rising crude oil prices in the first quarter of 2021. Despite rising forecast crude oil prices in early 2021, EIA expects upward price pressure will be limited through the forecast period because of high global oil inventory, surplus crude oil production capacity, and stock draws decreasing after the first quarter of 2021. EIA forecasts Brent crude oil prices will average $53/b in both 2021 and 2022.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO)
You can find more information on EIA’s expectations for changes in global petroleum liquids production, consumption, and crude oil prices in EIA’s latest This Week in Petroleum article and its January STEO.
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