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An Oilman's Perspective

From Griff Cordey (Rec’d & Pub’d 25 February 2010)

Sir, Rick Brassington bemoans the poor take-up of the Chartered Geologists (CGeol) professional qualification (Geoscientist 20.1, January 2010). In his earlier history of the Institution of Geologists (‘Institution of Geologists – a brief history’)  he notes that ‘… only a minority of professional geologists are Chartered geologists….’. Little has changed in the intervening period.

The largest group of professional geologists is probably those employed in the oil industry. The Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain’s membership is currently around 5200. The protracted process that finally resulted in the merger of the Institution of Geology with the Society (Brassington op.cit.) appeared to have taken place without the involvement of this group whose interests since 1965 have been represented by the PESGB. It might have helped to widen the recognition of the CGeol qualification if they could have been, in some way, involved.

The Society, by virtue of the merger, has assumed the role of professional regulator, yet the majority of those employed in the oil industry do not appear to recognise the need to acquire this professional qualification. Why is this?

A considerable proportion of oil industry staff are Earth science graduates and today many have, in addition, master degrees in petroleum geoscience or PhDs in specialised areas of the subject. On recruitment, they are placed in teams with experienced professionals and their work carefully supervised. Many employers additionally provide relevant courses on a continuing basis to augment on-the -job training, After three years or so, they are regarded as professionally competent.

This training process is probably as rigorous if not more so than that needed to meet the requirements of the CGeol qualification. The suggestion (Brassington , Geoscientist vol. 20,p.12) that should the Society abandon its role, then it ‘…would downgrade professional geoscientists to technician status…’.is, in the context of the oil industry, ridiculous. A further disincentive for industry professionals may be the need to be a Fellow of the Society in order to be eligible to apply for CGeol status.

In short, it is a qualification that some may feel is ‘nice to have’ but I suspect few in the oil industry feel it is a ‘must have’. In complete contrast, all the engineering disciplines require professional membership if a person is to progress professionally. Brassington suggests a number of ways by which the situation might be improved, citing employer recognition of CGeol as an important factor. If oil companies were to stipulate that all new recruits obtain CGeol and that this was essential for career advancement, the situation might indeed change dramatically.

However, given that recruits to the industry are academically well qualified, that the further training
provided is excellent and often on a continuing basis, the CGeol will, I suspect, remain as far as the oil industry is concerned, ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘must have’.


Less "Big Brother", more "Catch-22"

From Don Hallett (Rec’d 29 December 2009; Pub’d 21 January 2010)

Sir, I read the article 1984 and all that (Geoscientist 20.01) with interest. I fall into the category of one of the unchartered two-thirds - a professional geologist (although now semi-retired) who never saw any benefit in becoming chartered. Indeed the mere effort and expense of preparing, justifying and submitting an application is enough to discourage applicants. Mr Brassington hits the nail on the head when he says that CGeol is regarded by many as an optional extra and that it confers no higher status on the holder than fellowship of the Society. My daughter is a chartered surveyor and without that qualification she would not be able to be employed in her current post.

That is surely the crux of the matter. I do not believe that the CGeol authorising committee will make a major breakthrough until CGeol becomes the sine qua non of employment, insisted upon by employers, and that will not happen until employers are persuaded that CGeol carries a guarantee of quality: that a geologist has been appropriately trained and his qualifications critically evaluated by the authorising authority. Moreover there is the dangerous implied corollary that if a chartered geologist turns out to be inadequate the authorising authority could be held partly responsible. Chartered surveyors have to demonstrate a number of years of relevant work experience and then submit to a rigorous cross-examination, in which the failure rate approaches 40%. I wonder what the failure rate is among CGeol applications?

It is a Catch-22 situation, which raises the question of how the 'founding fathers' foresaw that this dilemma could be resolved.