BEIRUT: The booths of international oil and gas companies drew some of the biggest crowds of the American University of Beirut’s annual job fair, as the country pins high hope on its untapped offshore resources.
New graduate students queued up at the booths to inquire about the potential jobs with some of the firms.
“When talking to our company, we realized [there was] a great interest by students to learn more about the gas and oil field,” Stuart Passey, Director at Petrofac Academy, told The Daily Star on the sidelines of the AUB job fair Thursday.
“I imagine that at some point in the future there will be a growing oil and gas industry in Lebanon which will require a lot of engineers who have some oil and gas experience,” he said, adding: “The possibility of finding oil and gas in Lebanon is encouraging more students to get specialized in such an industry and learn about international companies who work in the field.”
Petrofac is an international oil and gas services company registered in the United Kingdom, with 18,000 employees operating in 29 countries all over the world. The company’s major operations are focused on engineering procurement and construction, as well as a range of oil and gas services, mostly in the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, India and Malaysia.
Petrofac does not have an office in Lebanon, but Passey said the company was keen to employ highly skilled graduates from top Lebanese universities.
“We have many Lebanese graduates who over the last 5 or 10 years have progressed into more senior positions in the company,” he said.
He explained that his company usually hires graduates who have a core engineering background and then they get involved in oil and gas projects to get practical experience in the field.
“So we are less worried at a graduate level that they have a particular oil and gas exposure,” he said.
He also added that Petrofac had a two-year graduate development program that aims at ensuring technical competence, including an understanding and awareness of the oil and gas industry. It also offers training that includes rotations to construction sites, enabling candidates to understand how oil and gas facilities are developed.
Representatives of some companies interviewed by The Daily Star, such as technology firm Schlumberger, suggested that students should work seriously on internships while they are still studying, because of the importance of such placements in building the character and experience of applicants.
“Some students believe that internships are optional, while [in fact] they are necessary to get in touch with the real world rather than with academia alone,” said Ahmed Kawanna, EEG Recruiting and University Relations Manager.
Schlumberger is one of the foremost technology suppliers in the oil and gas industry. It employs approximately 123,000 people from 140 nationalities, and works in more than 85 countries worldwide.
Kawanna believes that good job opportunities exist all the time but not everyone is able to grab them.
“The majority of people complain about not winning these jobs but this is because they are missing some skills that they should have acquired during their previous years for them to be able to grab these opportunities.”
However, Kawanna praised Lebanese students for their high level of education, as well as their communication and presentation skills.
“But I still believe that integrating in the job market through internships is very essential, because it builds students’ personalities and adds value to their profiles,” he said.
Kawanna added that his company was gearing up for the next stage in oil and gas exploration and extraction in Lebanon.
“Our company is looking for the best candidates in the engineering disciplines to join our team. Once we start operating in Lebanon we’d need more people to work in our office here,” he added.
He added that his company provides training and experience to its employees, helping them to progress on their career path and eventually become managers.
For Roueida Maamoun, human resources manager at oil and gas engineering company Beam International, graduates must be more realistic when looking for jobs.
“In Lebanon, job applicants have a very arrogant attitude,” she said, adding that fresh graduates have unrealistic expectations about the positions and salaries they are entitled to at the very start of their career.
“They have to get into the company, understand the job and start somewhere before moving to a senior position,” she added.
As well as oil and gas, Beam International works in the construction and engineering sectors.
Maamoun said the lack of expertise among Lebanese graduates in the oil and gas field was prompting her company to start looking for alternative applicants from Europe.
“We are resorting to employing more Europeans because they have experience in oil and gas. We do not have this kind of exposure here and this is a drawback for Lebanon.”
“We have some fresh graduates in these fields but what we really need are experienced people.”
Companies from other sectors also participated in this year’s job fair. While some of them focused on employing fresh graduates in the local market, others sought candidates for jobs in the Gulf region, due to their small investments in the Lebanese market.
“To be frank, the construction market in Lebanon is small compared to the region,” said Raja Nahas, executive assistant at the managing director office of Saudi Binladin Group.
“This is why Lebanon has always produced graduates and sent them outside,” he said.
Ahead of the start of the exhibition, AUB’s Career and Services Placement director Maryam Ghandour told The Daily Star that many more foreign companies had planned to participate in the event but ultimately changed their minds due to security considerations.