September 23, 2008
Poaching by industry has always been an issue for the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates and works closely with oil and gas companies.
But a resurgent oil and gas industry has led to an exodus of engineers from the commission – causing substantial delays in processing such filings as drilling permits. It's also prompted the agency to ask for emergency funding for 2009.
The combination of industry poaching and enrollment growth has led many departments on a search for experienced engineers to fill old and new slots as professors.
Academia has lagged behind industry in its growth.
The enrollment bust in the 1980s led to the closings of many petroleum engineering programs in the United States, and they haven't come back.
"There's only half as many schools," said Lloyd Heinze, chairman of the petroleum engineering department at Texas Tech University.
"I doubt if we'll hit over 800 [graduates per year] because we can't physically handle it. We don't have enough space."