Investing in the young Egyptian generation

Weatherford has established a new program that promises to train and prepare petroleum engineering students, initially from three Egyptian universities, for the challenges they will face following their graduation. In an effort to contribute to addressing the challenges that face the Egyptian society, Weatherford Egypt has promised to provide more job opportunities and to hire as many of these selected students as possible. Egypt Oil and Gas spoke to Mohamed Hemeda, General Manager of Weatherford Egypt, about the company’s new initiative

You are initiating a new program/project for petroleum engineering students; can you tell our readers more about it?
With the highly advanced technology used today in the oil and gas sector, as well as ongoing developments, Weatherford decided to adopt a new approach to meet its workforce needs which would also positively impact the Egyptian oil and gas business in general. We are aiming at selecting undergraduate engineering students and providing them viable on-the-job training opportunities during their summer vacation to better expose them to the requirements of the sector. Following their graduation, Weatherford will hire from among them to undergo a more intensive training program that combines practical learning experiences in various product lines with technical and academic courses. Weatherford is signing protocols with the faculties of engineering, with focus on the petroleum & mining departments, in a number of universities in Egypt to put this program in effect. We plan to train as many students as our budget can afford; as well as subsequently hire as many of them to meet our workforce needs in Egypt and for other country branches in the region. We will also probably communicate with our competitors to provide more job opportunities for those engineering graduates who exceed our workforce needs.

On what basis will Weatherford choose the students to join this program?
The basic qualifications & competencies we seek are being set by the HR Department in Weatherford Egypt and will be used to evaluate and select the students qualified for this program. This program will not be limited to one university only. We are now working closely with two universities; the Suez Canal University and Cairo University and will also extend the program to the American University in Cairo (AUC), and Ain Shams University.  We have held a number of presentations and seminars at some of these universities and will continue to do so in order to introduce our program and at the same time, give the students the chance to obtain more information about Weatherford and the privileges of our program.

Why did you choose Egyptian students in particular?
Egypt is the first country to have a petroleum industry in the region and it is also where the oldest universities were founded.  Egypt has thus played a key role in supplying the Arab world with large numbers of engineers, specialists and technicians in the oil & gas industry. Given the foregoing and the large number of students and graduates in Egypt, it was natural to choose Egypt as the target of the program. Egyptian students are the perfect candidates for our program.

Is this the first protocol of its kind to be set between Weatherford and Egyptian universities?
This is indeed the first time that we sign an “official protocol” with Egyptian universities. In addition, we are also concluding other agreements that do not target students, but that focus on upgrading the research and laboratory facilities of the faculties of engineering, petroleum & mining departments.  This will be done by equipping universities with the needed tools, computer, software and other advanced technology. Weatherford wants to contribute to the improvement of educational institutions as well, not just to training & hiring students. We believe that such contributions will ameliorate the learning environment in those faculties, as well as contribute to improving the academic curriculum which will enhance the students’ academic achievements.

Before this “official protocol”, has Weatherford ever cooperated with Egyptian universities? For instance, offering students summer internships?
While we did not previously have any official or formal training and/or recruitment agreements with universities, we have been regularly offering summer training opportunities for university students as well as have been hiring fresh engineering graduates to undergo an intensive training program. But, these were based on individual efforts whereby we were responding to requests from students and graduates who presented themselves directly to Weatherford. Accordingly, we didn’t have complete information on the engineering students and graduates in the various Egyptian universities and didn’t either have statistics on the percentage of those trained and hired by Weatherford in comparison to the total number of students and graduates. But, with the signing of the protocols, we are expanding and regulating our program and at the same time ensuring that we reach the largest number of students and graduates. This will more effectively contribute to achieving our goal.

In an interview with a professor from Cairo University, he was complaining from the lack of cooperation from the private sector. Comment
With regards to Weatherford, we have taken the initiative to increase our cooperation with and to support Egyptian universities in order to contribute to the development and sustainability of academia. This initiative, as mentioned earlier, is targeting students, curricula, equipment, etc. Yet, it is important to stress that Weatherford cannot and should not be the sole contributor and partner. We are doing our best and have taken concrete steps. More companies should also be addressed to participate.

What are the some of the challenges Weatherford faces to make this project a reality?
The limited number of viable training opportunities for university students in Egypt, as well as the high rate of unemployment produces a large number of candidates which will make the evaluation and selection process for our program difficult. More importantly, since the opportunities in Weatherford alone cannot at the present time match up to the number of students and graduates, some negative effects are bound to occur for those unselected. We need to support and encourage the students to improve their academic learning experience, develop basic skills and competencies and elevate the spirit of healthy competition between them by emphasizing that selection will be for the distinguished students and graduates. The program focuses on selecting the top performers to contract with them, initially for a two-year period during which they take intensive courses as well as have practical experience in various product lines.

Did Weatherford conduct a similar project in any other countries especially that it is operating in more than 100 countries?
With regard to our regional operation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), this is considered the first program of its kind.

What is the budget allocated for this project? From which department is it generated?
During 2006, Weatherford has allocated 2.3% of its budget for research and development programs which are not limited to student programs only. Weatherford also has programs for teaching staff.  For example; three assistant professors from Cairo University were given the chance to conduct post graduate studies and research outside Egypt and Weatherford is covering the costs. Our goal is to contribute to the development of the entire academic system, starting from students to teaching staff and including the educational tools, equipment, etc. of the faculties.

What is the difference between the Weatherford project and the scholarships granted by the Malaysian Petronas to petroleum engineering students?
Both are based on the same concept and have similar objectives. However, Weatherford is a service company, while Petronas is an operating company. Each has different activities and uses different technologies, which reflects on the nature of programs and opportunities offered by each. Petronas grants scholarships for twenty high-school students to study at the Department of Technology in Petronas University in Malaysia. They seek to train students to suit their work requirements and adapt to their technology. Also, the Malaysian company works closely with the Ministry of Petroleum (MOP). The ministry granted 10 scholarships and Petronas Co. granted the other 10. Weatherford’s program, on the other hand, is carried out in association with the Egyptian universities, not the ministry. We first select senior petroleum engineering students to train them during the summer and then select the distinguished fresh graduates to undergo an intensive two-year training program, which includes practical learning experience and courses in our training centers. This program covers the various product lines and services we have in order to develop their skills and competencies to become fully-qualified and productive members of our work force. In addition, the number of students we select is not limited as is the case with Petronas; but we will take as many students and graduates as our budget and facilities can accommodate.

What are the benefits of such a program for Weatherford, besides having your own skilled and well-trained employees?
Increasing the number of well-qualified and skilled graduates is certainly valuable to Weatherford since it provides us with candidates who are familiar with our operations and systems. This reduces the learning curb and thus saves time and makes us more productive and competitive. In addition, this program will promote healthy competition among the students and graduates by emphasizing their need to prove themselves and to excel which leads to further development and growth for the company and to the development of society in general. Furthermore, the need for well-qualified and skilled employees in the sector is not limited to Egypt and this program will thus provide other countries in the region with a pool of distinguished candidates to hire from.

What are Weatherford’s plans besides the implementation of this project?
With the planned expansion of our services, it is likely that the need will arise to establish factories in Egypt similar to those owned by Weatherford in Abu Dhabi, in order to optimally meet the demands for our operation in terms of production levels and delivery times. We might establish a factory in Egypt to cover our operation needs in North Africa, while the factories in Abu Dhabi cover the operation needs in the Middle East area. Weatherford already has a factory in Amereya in Alexandria and plans to expand it further. Moving toward the establishment of factories will increase business in the petroleum industry in Egypt in particular and in North Africa in general. It will also lead to further development of the economy as well as to creating more job opportunities.

The team responsible for the project’s execution and success. From left: Said Zaki, Marketing Manager, Mohamed Hemeda, General Manager and Shahinaz Omar, HR and Admin Services Manager

(By Yomna Bassiouni)


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