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Novatek assessed the urgency of modernizing Russia’s higher education system


The Empress Catherine II St. Petersburg Mining University continues to implement a pilot project to improve the system of personnel training for the national economy. One of its characteristic features is the enrollment of students exclusively in the specialties of basic higher education with a study period of 5.5 years. In other words, bachelor's degree is no longer included in the university curricula.

So far - only for freshmen, but soon, in three and a half years, it will disappear in principle. Moreover, this experience will be extended to all technical universities of our country. Forpost decided to find out how much employers demand such transformations. That is, whether they expect that in 5 years more and more young competent engineers will really start to enter the labor market, and - most importantly - how much they need it.

According to Alexander Natalenko, Chairman of the Board of Directors of PJSC Novatek, the Company employs about 70 bachelor's degree graduates every year. However, compared to those young people who have graduated from specialization, they have a number of obvious disadvantages. In particular, "a less profound level of theoretical knowledge of the subjects and lack of practical skills necessary for successful and prompt adaptation at the enterprise".

© Форпост Северо-Запад

"The main problem of undergraduate programs is the lack of practical skills, and they are very important. In the process of obtaining them, students get acquainted with the technological line as a whole, the specific operations they will have to perform, their future place of work, profession and team. It is in the course of industrial practice that the guys can understand whether they have chosen the right specialty and company or not," emphasized Alexander Natalenko.

The two-tier system of higher education, which replaced the Soviet system at the beginning of the century, as we know, reduced the curricula in many areas of training by almost a third. It goes without saying that the time for a young person to acquire the knowledge necessary for a successful career, including fundamental knowledge, became sharply lacking. But it was the internships that were hit hardest.

Bachelor's degree programs offer only one internship during the whole period of study. It takes place at the end of the third year, for three, maximum four weeks. Young men and women are not always allowed to work on real equipment, as few current employees want to take responsibility for newcomers. In this regard, cases when the only trip to a field or mill is just a familiarization tour and nothing more, are quite common. Many students are demotivated to work in the real sector of the economy, and those of them who do find employment at enterprises after graduation often take a long and painful time to adapt to their new environment.


"The duration of industrial practice should be at least one month annually, starting from the second year, plus a mandatory pre-diploma internship of at least 3-6 months. Moreover, it is desirable to undergo it at the enterprise where the student plans to work after graduation, or at least at the specialized production. Employers are in great demand for changing curricula in this direction," says Alexander Natalenko.

The unified approach to the structure of higher engineering education, which was developed at the Mining University and is now being implemented there in the format of a pilot project, envisages an increase in the internship period to a total of 10 months. Another modern trend aimed at reducing the time of graduates' adaptation at the enterprise is the introduction of virtual simulators, which can be used to acquire primary work skills or consolidate those acquired during the real internship.

Four years ago, Novatek created a training and simulation complex "Offshore Drilling", which imitates a field, at a St. Petersburg university. Now any student, wearing 3D glasses and running a special program, can feel himself a real engineer without leaving the walls of his alma mater. Moreover, both in normal and abnormal situations. The simplest exercise for the representatives of the initial courses is closing and opening valves on the pipeline fittings of an operating well. It would seem to be a trifle, but later, when working "in the field", it will definitely help students. After all, they have already performed such an operation, albeit in virtual space, and thus will feel much more confident in real conditions.

Горный университет
© Форпост Северо-Запад / Павел Долганов

Another advantage of the pilot project to improve the higher education system, which is currently being implemented at Mining University, Alexander Natalenko considers the introduction of compulsory electives, where one can obtain additional competencies. For example, in the IT sphere. It is no secret that a modern oil and gas specialist is simply obliged to possess such knowledge and skills, as digital technologies have now become an integral part of the mineral resources sector. But at the same time, "pure programmers" are not in demand in the industry; it is mining engineers who are able to work with various software that are needed there.

"Modern students, even at the stage of higher education, should definitely get additional competencies in the field of economics, IT, business communication, effective management skills. To study software products by specialty. For example, NanoCAD (two- and three-dimensional system of computer-aided design and drawing - ed), geological modeling, 1C and so on. This will allow not only to adapt faster in production after graduation, but also to become more in demand in the labor market," - said Alexander Natalenko.

It should be reminded that today, by the time the Mining University graduates, its students must have obtained at least eight additional professional competencies. This includes mastering two working specialties, such as oil and gas operator, well control, line pipefitter and so on. In total, the university has more than 260 such programs to choose from.