Training the next generation of geoscientists

by Maria Lorenzo, photography by Gus Morgan

  • Global training gives early-career geoscientists real-time experience.
  • Training includes independent learning, as well as virtual, in-person and field sessions.

“The Geoscience Academy provided a unique opportunity to accelerate my technical skills in an environment where I could network with employees from around globe. Given the limited time and resources, the value provided to the business was outstanding. Every aspect of this course was designed to prepare the company for a future of technical excellence.”
— Dallin Laycock, geologist, ConocoPhillips Canada

The program gets your feet wet in all of the main disciplines and provides a broad understanding of what we do as geoscientists. My favorite part was the week-long integrated North Sea team project that made us draw from our learnings throughout the course and leverage our team members’ experiences.
— Blair Chan, senior geologist, Exploration

ConocoPhillips’ employees drive its success, which is why training and developing them is so important. Company experts have found a cost-effective way to give global geoscience employees hands-on experience, real-time training and on-the-job learning.

“We have developed a more sustainable training model that delivers high-caliber training to our early career geoscientists with reduced travel and costs,” said Giles Adam, competency director and geoscience learning advisor in the company’s Technical Training group. “In addition to looking at new ways for our global experts to deliver training virtually, we took a fresh look at the knowledge and skills our geoscientists need today and in the future.”

Subject matter experts (SME) from the Subsurface group and Human Resources’ (HR) technical learning team worked together to find creative solutions to bring their training to employees in Alaska, Canada, Indonesia, Lower 48, Norway and the U.K. The resulting Geoscience Academy included self-paced, independent learning; virtual, instructor-led sessions; and a two-week, in-person conclusion event in Houston that included a full day of hands-on experience in the field. This model allowed employees to immediately apply their learning on the job and provided the flexibility to continue to work on their day-to-day responsibilities. It also gave participants a chance to network with company SMEs, who can provide them with ongoing support and advice. Twenty-four SMEs, with a combined 397 years of experience, were key to the program’s success due to their knowledge, experience and alignment on this new delivery approach. They led 11 courses focused on subjects such as geoscience foundations, value, risk, uncertainty and economics and integrated seismic interpretation.

The collaboration aspects of the training were my favorite. The participants had up to five years of experience with ConocoPhillips and brought a great variety of knowledge to the group exercises. I learned a lot from my peers. The field trip to Galveston Bay was the highlight for me. Getting out into the field to visualize the depositional examples always has is always one of the best ways to learn. It was great to be with such an enthusiastic group of geoscientists!
— Rachel Shanks, associate geologist, ConocoPhillips U.K.

One of the main takeaways for me was the breadth of what ConocoPhillips is doing and the amount of expert knowledge that we have available in-house. Utilizing available resources and learning from both colleagues and subject matter experts is critical to being successful. Another takeaway is how we integrated our data and interpretation and how important that is for solving subsurface challenges.”
— Jon Are Skaar, associate geophysicist, ConocoPhillips Norway

The company also looks for opportunities for experienced geoscientists to pass their knowledge to the next generation. During Geoscience Academy, Rich Aram, a retiree with more than 35 years of experience, led a two-day exercise.

“It was great to return to work with the best and brightest again and to see their passion for their careers,” said Aram, a former geologist in the Technology, Exploration and Production groups who also managed the previous geoscience new hire training. “I really like connecting learners with their colleagues from all over the world because that makes every one of them better, and we get to work with some really cool data sets and challenges. Through the years, I’ve seen new hire geoscience training evolve to incorporate more hands-on experiences, less lecture, more integration of competencies, and a heightened focus on recommended practices.”

Geoscience Academy also set the foundation for a new approach to technical training at ConocoPhillips.

“Petrotechnical employees are lifelong learners, so we are always looking for ways to develop our engineers and geoscientists at all stages of their career,” said Jonathan Scorer, principal geophysicist. “As we continue to develop fit-for-purpose training and learning solutions for our employees and business units, we will be looking to find new ways to engage learners.”