Energy programs still see steady enrolment in Calgary post secondary – just not oil and gas

Shift away from carbon-based program into other energy industries and environmental management

The Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary is home to many programs that often relate to the petroleum industry. KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

The University of Calgary recently announced their petroleum engineering program would suspend admission due to industry changes.

However other related programs throughout post-secondary institutions haven’t seen similar changes in their enrolment.

Gwen O’Sullivan, the chair of Mount Royal’s Faculty of Environmental Science, said they haven’t seen changes in the number of students enrolled in programs that traditionally relate to the oilfield, like environmental science and geology.

She credits sustained numbers in these programs to the fact that grads have a variety of employment opportunities outside of petroleum. 

“We have a really good history and high employment rates for the two programs, but there’s diversity and employment so it’s not just oil and gas but other sectors as well,” said O’Sullivan.

She said that having these options for work has played a major role for students in recent years. Many students have moved away from the oil and gas industry entirely. Some have moved to places like Europe or Africa where there’s more work outside of oil.

For many students in MRU’s geology program, jobs like mineral extraction and management of natural hazards have become more viable careers.

Environmental science has seen similar shifts. The number of students enrolled has remained steady, O’Sullivan said the areas of employment for this field can apply to oil and gas, but it’s largely geared towards setting regulations.

“This year we’re at 113 per cent of seats at the minute. I think that really is driven towards the need that no matter what economic condition you’re in, you’re always going to need to monitor health and the environment,” said O’Sullivan.

UCalgary has plans to alter energy majors

A statement from the UofC’s Faculty of Science said that there has been a five-year decrease in the number of students interested in the petroleum geology concentration. However this is largely explained by a shift towards energy sciences.

“Energy education continues to evolve in response to global market forces and societal demand for lower-carbon energy sources. This leads to growing demand for training in a range of traditional and emerging low-carbon energy resource industries,” said the statement.

Further, the University has plans in place for a new energy science program, which could potentially begin in 2022.

SAIT declined to comment on enrolment numbers for their oil and gas related programs.

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