Students Excel in PETSM Program at Nicholls

The Petroleum Engineering Technology and Safety Management (PETSM) program at Nicholls State University has been helping thousands of students in the Bayou Region as well as the entire state start or advance in the oil and gas industry since 1973.

“Our economy down here is really linked to the hip with oil and gas. So as oil and gas goes, so goes our local economy. So I think that by us having regional institution and the local surrounding communities who grew up in this… their families were in this industry, we provide a direct opportunity for them to earn a good living and stay in the area, if that’s what they want to do,” said Michael Gautreaux, Executive Director of PETSM.

Since the program started, it has always made sure to be obliging to those working in the oil and gas industry with its specific scheduling and curriculum. Originally, the program offered just a 7 & 7 scheduling that accommodated a 7-on/7-off rotation but now shifted to cater to the 14-on/14-off rotation as well, which has become more common. Degree hopefuls have the option of doing the 8-week online terms for an associate’s degree or stay with the traditional 16-week fall and spring semesters and 8-week for summer for associate’s or bachelor’s degrees. 

Today, PETSM offers bachelor’s degrees with concentrations in Exploration and Production (PSEP), Safety Technology (PSST) and Petroleum Services. The program also offers two-year degrees in Safety Technology and Petroleum Services.

“Basically what these degrees do is prepare students for careers in the upstream, midstream, downstream oil and gas energy sector and some type of operation segment, like an engineering technician… of course you kind of grow into that role,” Gautreaux said. “It’s more of an operations leadership kind of role that we prepare our students to do.”

The courses in the program give students a variety of techniques to learn from and the skills to succeed out in the field. Students sometimes participate in lab experiments, work in teams, create special projects and more. Recent spring graduates from the program presented their senior research project at the 22nd Annual Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Technical Symposium.

“So when they leave here, they kind of get a good, well-rounded understanding of the major pieces of how this industry works,” Gautreaux said. “And we’ve got the management piece. We’ve got economics piece. They got the geology piece, they got English, math and computer science…Then there is a blend of the safety management system to go into doing this safely and productively.”

The success and longevity of PETSM can also be linked to the support it has from big companies on its advisory board such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Shell, just to name a few. These companies are also connected to the three student organizations associated with the program.

“They [companies on the advisory board] validate our curriculum,” Gautreaux said. “So those three professional chapters sponsor a local student chapter and through that there’s scholarships. They donate money to our program and help improve our facilities, our lab, curriculum and help with student travel. It’s tremendous support that we get from our advisory board and the professional associations that we have student organizations with. We couldn’t do it without them.”

Although in recent years, when drop in oil prices caused a slight decrease in the number of students in PETSM, they continue to educate those in the region, preparing them for when the demand for work will eventually be high again in the cyclical oil and gas industry.

“We’re good at what we do, and when those folks come through our program, they have opportunities to earn a lucrative salary and career, stay in the area and be a productive citizen,” Gautreaux said. “I think that’s what we offer the local area.”