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Shell employees gear up for careers at the operator’s college.
|The Shell Learning Centre tries to make students feel at home. (Photos courtesy of Shell)|
Knowing where your strength lies is a very important feature of a successful business. In Shell, one of its strengths is the caliber of its people, and providing well-designed, fit-for-purpose training programs is one of the ways of ensuring that these people stay at the top of their game. At the center of this global initiative is the Shell University.
Shell’s previous center for E&P learning was built 20 years ago in Noordwijkerhout, The Netherlands. The university moved to its present state-of-the-art campus in Rijswijk just two years ago.
Here, a global portfolio for technical learning is tried and tested and then exported to other learning centers around the world — in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the United States.
In addition to catering for regional requirements, each location also offers the same basic set of courses for new joiners; these include mandatory sessions, which provide students with an induction into company culture and the way Shell’s business is organized.
Training is also tailored to specialist skills in the regions such as smart wells training in Brunei and enhanced oil recovery training in Oman. At any one time, between 250 and 300 students attend the Rijswijk center, which is running at full capacity due to high recruitment over the past couple of years.
Anton Andreev, who graduated a year ago and is now working as a petroleum engineer and business planner (or PE business planner) with Shell in Sakhalin, Russia, is currently studying at the center.
He said, “As a graduate-level employee, Shell is heavily investing in my future. I started off with the introductory course, which really opened my eyes to Shell’s way of working, and now I’m back for the ‘well fundamentals’ training, which acquaints you with the language of a wells site.”
“This is crucial for my work at Sakhalin, as I work closely with well engineers and I need to know what they do,” explained his colleague, Natalia Zhidkova, a production technologist who is also following the course. “After university you have some general knowledge, but it’s good to see the practical side.’’
Fred Timibitei, assistant drilling supervisor with Shell Petroleum Development Co. of Nigeria (SPDC), a Shell joint venture company, agreed. “Back in Nigeria, we learn things hands-on from technicians who might be focused on a particular aspect of something. Here, we learn the theory from people who have a higher academic understanding and who talk more at our level. This really helps us understand why we do things a certain way,” he added.
Anayo Okoronkwo, a night drilling supervisor also from SPDC, added, “I love the diversity here. I see myself mirrored by people from all over the world with the same ambitions.’’
Zhidkova said, “What’s great about the Shell Training Centre is that you’re exposed to people from opposite parts of the world, with different cultures and religions.” In fact, Timibitei urges future students to come with an open mind, adding, “Shell embraces people of all races. Some training exercises encourage you to learn laterally, and we have to approach colleagues from other countries for their input. But I’ve learnt that they’ll always support you.”
Day in the life
The four students will be in Rijswijk for a total of three weeks to follow two courses. Timibitei described campus life. “The mornings usually involve a theoretical presentation with slides in a classroom environment, after which we go to the model room where we are shown and can handle some of the components and parts covered in the presentation.
After a short break, we take part in a reinforcement exercise to see how well we understood what we learned earlier. A syndicate session follows, during which we have to apply our knowledge.
Today, for example, we had to design a well, even though none of us have ever done that before. I have heard that the next course will involve some lab work. I think Shell offers one of the best training courses in the industry, and once you’ve completed even the most basic Shell courses, other companies think ‘wow.’’’
Andreev agreed, “I don’t think friends who work for other companies are getting access to the same opportunities I’m getting here at Shell.”
More than a local champion
“The emphasis on teamwork has been one of the main things I’ve learned here,” said Okoronkwo. “We depend on each other to accomplish our goals; safety, for example, is something we all have to work on together.
“In Nigeria, someone can be a local champion — a big fish in a small pond — and think you know it all, but once you see what others have done you realize you’re really a tiny fish in the ocean and you see how much there is to learn. It’s opened up my eyes to what’s possible and the essence of open-minded teamwork.”
Andreev added, “I also used to pride myself on being an individualist, thinking I can do it all by myself, but here I see that what I know barely scratches the surface and that I can learn a lot from others. I love the mentoring culture at Shell.”
According to Zhidkova, the more experienced Shell people are always ready to help them learn, “There isn’t a huge gap between us and them.”
Okoronkwo is interested in the limitless possibilities of “working anywhere in the world where you can find oil and becoming a principal engineer in the shortest possible time,” while Timibitei’s ambitions are a bit more specific. “I’d like to be a principal drilling engineer within the next five years,” he said.
“This training is step one on my way there.’’ Andreev, on the other hand, is still weighing his options. “I believe that your work should give you satisfaction. I’m not sure whether I want to focus on the technical side or the management side yet, but we’ll see.’’ he added.
“I had a conversation with my mentor about where I’d like to be in 15 years,” Zhidkova said, “I’m finishing my Ph.D. now, and I’d like to continue down the technology path and become a technical expert. The future is wide open.”