Total Exploration and Production Nigeria says it has concluded plans to train nine Nigerian lecturers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, USA, as part of its efforts to build local capacity in the country’s oil and gas industry.
A statement signed by Mr Charles Ebereonwu, Total Country Communication Manager, said the company’s Diversity Manager, Mr Azu Azuike, made the announcement at a panel interview session for shortlisted candidates in Abuja.
Azuike said the nine successful candidates for the MIT-Empowering The Teachers (ETT) 2020 Fall/2021 Spring Fellowship, would undergo a one-semester training at the prestigious institute.
He added that the MIT-ETT project was part of Total’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme done in conjunction with its partners.
Azuike said the best nine lecturers would be selected from 250 shortlisted candidates from about 500 applications from various universities in the country.
“For this specific season, we had almost 500 lecturers that applied globally and 250 were actually qualified and shortlisted to be at this last level.
“We normally screen it down to only 20 lecturers for the panel interview, so, we have to do a whole lot of screening down and effectively, we are taking less than 10 per cent of the qualified.
“It is very stringent and what you are seeing here are like best of the best, so to speak,’’ he said.
According to him, each of the shortlisted candidates will make two presentations of a research work and teaching skills.
“We hold a general assessment, we look at the research work and see how well the person have grasp of the work and if you can teach it,’’ he added.
Azuike said the programme had impacted positively on the academia and by extension, the oil and gas industry since its inception in 2010.
He noted that before the inception of the programme, the industry expectation was not matching with the kind of graduates that the academia was churning out.
Azuike said the expectation of Total from the programme was to ensure an academia that would be able to produce student that could match the needs of the industry to help in solving problems.
He also disclosed that Total was in talks with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to get other international oil companies (IOC) involved to help expand the number of participants in the programme.
Also speaking, Prof. Akintunde Akinwande, of MIT’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, stated that most of the lecturers who had passed through the programme had improved on what they do on individual basis.
He said that some of them had also tried to do systemic changes, some at the teaching level, some at the mentoring level and at visionary level.
“I think things have succeeded because we have started to see tangible results. At the end of the day, it is what the students can do that matter most.
“The focus in the past used to be what students can remember and by changing the focus from that, it has really made the students that are coming out of the school to be more competitive in respect to work,’’ he said.
Akinwande noted that most universities in the country were currently benefiting from the alumni members of MIT through various forms of seminars, laboratory equipment, among others.
One of the participants, Dr Tinuola Udoh of the Department Of Chemical/Petrochemical Engineering, Akwa Ibom State University, stated that the programme had helped to develop and improve teaching in the university.
“I see this as an opportunity I am looking for to develop myself; I see it as an opportunity to be exposed and to learn how to improve what I am doing because one of the things that is really my desire is to improve the teaching system in our universities,” she said.
Similarly, another shortlisted candidate, Dr Blessing Eboibi of Delta State University, said it would give the beneficiaries exposure and better training which they could use to positively impact Nigeria when they return.