Lessons Learned in Developing Human Capital for The Oil and Gas Industry in Kazakhstan

Dairov, Zhassulan (KIMEP University) | Syzdykov, Murat (Satbayev University) | Miskimins, Jennifer (Satbayev University)



The World Economic Forum's (WEF) Human Capital initiative has been implemented at Satbayev University (SU), Almaty, Kazakhstan for the last two years. Participating in this effort are Chevron, Eni, Shell, and the Colorado School of Mines (Mines). This paper assesses the effectiveness of project components, such as industry guest lectures, summer internships, and program improvement and provides lessons learned for human resources development initiatives.

This paper utilizes the qualitative research method in which data are collected through focus group interviews. Key participants of the study include students enrolled in the WEF program and faculty members. Moreover, the interviewing process involves students that are not part of the WEF program as a control group to measure progress made with additional benefits.

The article explains major challenges of talent development in higher education institutions. It has been determined that the local specifics, especially students' socio-economic and educational background, play an important role on future academic success. For example, students encountered difficulties with understanding course materials and industry guest lectures, which is attributed to English language barriers. Yet, select students have had strong success in the upper-intermediate and above levels. Students' internships revealed that summer experience has greatly strengthened their practical knowledge and skills, opened eyes to industry settings, and more importantly, influenced better planning of career paths. Students reported internships not only provided an industry outlook but also perspectives of continuing graduate studies. It is noted that workforce development requires sufficient faculty development in a case of scarce human resources. The competent and adequate faculty, especially in petroleum engineering (PE), is a prominent problem in most developing oil and gas countries. This issue was articulated among stakeholders, and the project results demonstrate the successful case of company support to raise professional competencies of SU faculty.

This paper covers the human capital development challenges within the WEF project framework, and based on scientific evidence, further elucidates the project-specific tools to propagate similar initiatives around the world. Kazakhstan's experience, as a former Soviet Union state, brings useful suggestions to transform higher education talent development to match the industry-wide standards. It is highlighted that an effective industry-academia collaboration develops from shared visions, values, and goals.

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