Chevron Angola Employees Train for Future at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology

Alberta and Angola may be a world apart in geography, climate and culture, but the two locales now share a common bond thanks to Chevron.

In January, 45 Chevron employees from the Southern Africa Strategic Business Unit (SASBU) arrived in Calgary to study at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT).

The employees, all Angolans, are enrolled in an 11-month training program to prepare them to run Chevron operations and projects for SASBU, including the offshore Mafumeira Sul Project.

Josefina and Naice

Josefina Zau, right, and Naice Rio are two of 45 Chevron employees from Angola who have embraced hands-on learning at SAIT in Calgary.

Having the opportunity to work for Chevron and study in Canada is a dream come true for employees like Antonio Ndundo. “I am so delighted to be here,” said Ndundo, 31. “I recognize this is a golden opportunity to be here. I will learn a lot and then I will make a positive contribution to Chevron. I would like to share this knowledge with people in Angola.”

Ndundo, a former screening officer at an airport in the west African nation, is studying to be an operator for SASBU. The training program is central to Chevron’s ongoing efforts to build a world-class workforce in Angola that can compete in the international marketplace.

So when SASBU needed new hires to fill gaps left by attrition, the business unit advertised in Angola. It received more than 14,000 applications and hired the top 150.

“This is really amazing for me that we were the ones selected,” said Paulino Paca, a 29-year-old who had studied oil and gas in high school and university. “Now we have to study hard and apply what we learn.”

Brand New Facility

Once they graduate, the students will help operate and maintain the Mafumeira Sul Project, about 24 km offshore Cabinda Province in Angola in about 200 feet of water.

Mafumeira Sul is expected to reach first oil in 2015 and build toward peak total daily production of 110,000 barrels of crude oil and 10,000 barrels of liquefied petroleum gas. Chevron's subsidiary, CABGOC, is the operator and holds a 39.2 percent interest in Mafumeira Sul.

“The carrot is that when they graduate they’ll get to work on a brand-new facility,” said SASBU Operations Superintendent Murray Cronk, who has been visiting monthly from Houston to monitor the students’ progress. “They’ll have great jobs.”

Once SASBU had hired its workforce of the future, it steeped the group in an intensive English language class and provided an overview of the energy industry. Then it needed a world-class facility to train them.

“SAIT had the gas training that other facilities couldn’t provide,” Cronk, an alumnus, said. “All in all, it’s a world-class energy facility. I think they’re the best in the world.”

The relationship has been a positive one for SAIT, too.

“Oil companies in Angola are now seeing the experience and opportunities SAIT can give through workforce nationalization and it’s been wonderful to have Chevron as a partner,” said Stephen Armitage of SAIT’s MacPhail School of Energy.

Since their arrival, the 45-person team has benefited tremendously from numerous hands-on learning opportunities provided by SAIT.

“Compared to what we had back home, here we have really good facilities,” said Paca. “We can look at pumps and heat treaters. We can come here and practice. You can see the theory and you can practice and this helps you learn really fast. In the classroom you’re limited.”

In September the group will be joined by 46 maintenance employees in the instrumentation, mechanical and electrical fields, for further study at SAIT.

Challenge Ahead

Ndundo, for one, is looking forward to the challenge of starting up a brand-new facility under the watchful eye of veteran Chevron workers.

“I’m going to treat that facility like it’s my baby,” he said. “I have not been in a startup situation before and no doubt about it, it’s going to be a big challenge to start up. For me, it’s going to be a great experience.”

There’s still a long road ahead, but one that the students hope will have a definite payoff.

“I believe being here and working for Chevron will improve my life,” Paca said. “It will help me develop and help my children to have a better education. We still have a goal first: to do my best, learn and go and apply it in my workplace as required.”