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Adedoja Ojelabi, Africa Region Secretary/Treasurer and IBA Coordinator Femi Esan, Africa Region IBA Committee
The AAPG Imperial Barrel Award Program (IBA) is a unique opportunity for Earth Science students from Universities globally to analyze real geologic, geophysical, land, economic, and production data.
The idea for the AAPG Africa Region IBA Mentorship program came up in 2009. Wasiu Odufisan who runs NAPE’s Grants-in-Aid under the NAPE University Assistance Program (UAP) wanted to see how we could facilitate an industry/academia exchange and we came up with the idea of recruiting experienced industry personnel to work with students on the IBA program.
This innovation by the AAPG Africa Region seems to be one of the best practices being adopted globally by the other regions participating in the AAPG IBA Program.
Each IBA participating team in the Africa Region is assigned an industry mentor (sometimes more than one) who serves as a technical coach to the team, monitoring deliverables and timelines of the IBA program, review products, challenges, progress, the way forward, etc.
An email requests for volunteers for the program is circulated to the members of the AAPG Africa Region and expatriates working in Africa. Prospective volunteers are asked to send a short resume. Selection is based on oil-industry experience, particularly in mapping skills and a willingness to share knowledge and provide technical guidance to the students. Schools and Mentors are randomly matched, but we try to ensure that volunteers are matched with countries outside their own nationality or work area.
The rules of the IBA program are sent to all mentors before the mentoring begins so that they understand the objectives of the program and are able to identify with, and support it. Mentors must be mindful to keep within the rules and guidelines of the competition. At no time should mentors have physical contact with the school or dataset. The objective is to encourage and guide the thinking and planning process for the students, not to do the work for them.
We have also developed a generic workflow that defines milestones that each team should achieve at a certain time. Mentors are sent this workflow, which they will help the teams understand so that they (students) can map out a plan to meet their timelines, deliverables, etc. While the workflow is generic, teams may adapt it with the help of the mentor to suit their situation. Each school sends their deliverables in PowerPoint format and word document to their respective mentors at least two days before each critical gate review date. Volunteer mentors are required to initiate contact with their assigned school when defined milestones are expected, to see where the schools are with their deliverables. The mentors then review the document and provide feedback via email or phone calls, teleconferences or IM. It may also be necessary to follow up with phone calls for clarification as necessary. Mentors will also help to review products from the team, such as their presentation material.
The advantage of this is that all mentors can provide technical feedback to their respective schools at each gate review. This ensures that the teams are engaged and are actively working on the project, and moving at about the same pace. This way, we are certain that no team is left behind, and all will complete the process.
For 2010, critical review gates for the AAPG Africa Region IBA universities are:
Also issues to do with software and hardware may require the advice of the mentor. Where there are software/hardware issues, such as a lack of interpretation software, or data download challenges, mentors work with the AAR IBA Committee to figure out alternatives.
Mentors can be assigned to any school and we deliberately seek to recruit volunteers from different countries in Africa to give the IBA program a truly regional flavor. Even if the participating schools are from just 2 or 3 countries, it becomes a regional program with the involvement of mentors from all over Africa - Angola, Ghana. Morocco, Egypt, Cameroun, Chad, etc.
Last year (2009), the volunteer industry mentorship of the teams was highly successful in facilitating a better industry-academia partnership so we are repeating the experience this year. Since 2009 we have had volunteers from Nigeria, Angola, Egypt, Morocco, Ghana and South Africa, some of whom are expatriates working in these countries. The mentors are employees of IOCs, NOCs and also independent consultants. In 2009 we had 18 mentors to 14 schools and for 2010, we have successfully increased this number to 36 mentors for 13 schools.
Generally the schools do not receive the same data set, so their results will vary. Therefore having mentors from different countries and representing different companies and experience levels makes for interesting exchanges between the mentors and the mentored. It is expected that these interactions will help teams develop their technical and problem-solving skills and improve their understanding of the principles and workflows, interpretation and integration skills, knowledge of the regional setting of the assigned basin, results and recommendations.
The experience in 2009 shows that interacting with industry mentors is of immense benefit to students, as they learn what is expected of them in the industry – team work, planning, prioritizing, speed, efficiency, work ethics, etc. and we hope that the mentors also benefit from the exchange of ideas and derive a sense of fulfillment from helping another generation of Earth Scientists learn about the industry.
Benefits that accrue to companies who allow their employees participate in the mentoring program include:
Adedoja Ojelabi & Femi Esan