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Growing the Next Generation of Land Professionals

Apr 13 2020 | Community

Over the past decade the land industry has faced concerns over the graying of its workforce. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median age for workers in oil, gas, and mining was 41.5 in 2014. A report published in 2015 by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found approximately one-quarter (27%) of workers in the oil, gas, and mining industry were age 55 and older.

Universities have responded to these demographic factors by partnering with corporate leaders to ensure a future workforce that is educated, trained, and ready to work. One example is the collaboration between West Virginia University Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design and energy software innovator, Pandell. The partnership provides students and faculty in WVU’s Energy Land Management Program with modern software tools for managing land rights, resulting in an emerging workforce that’s digital-savvy and able to offer new insights and efficiencies through analysis of corporate land data.

In a recent visit by several WVU staff and students to Pandell’s Houston-based office, program members described how the partnership has contributed to preparing the next generation of land professionals to meet new industry challenges.

Companies that Manage Land Rights Seek Graduates with Software Experience

A legacy of paper documents and courthouse files has followed many companies into the digital age. As their footprint expands, so too does their need to access and analyze data from multiple locations and through large scale reporting. Companies now need land professionals who can leverage software to draw out information about what they own and use it to solve business problems.

WVU integrates Pandell’s LandWorks land management and GIS software systems into its curriculum so that students can practice real-world analysis and scenarios. “It gives them one more skillset that will help them be employable, and it definitely is the wave of the future to have this experience,” said Dr. Shawn Grushecky, Program Coordinator. “I like to say it’s another arrow in their quiver. It’s really beneficial for them.

The Future of Land Management Goes Beyond Oil and Gas

WVU’s program is currently the second largest AAPL-accredited program in the nation, with 120 students annually. Building on a foundation of managing land rights for the petroleum industry, Dr. Grushecky now sees students going on to discover land careers in many other sectors.

We have a lot of students now going into solar, as well as telecommunications and small utility infrastructure ,” said Dr. Grushecky. “In addition to the energy sector, national brands that have real estate and are looking to expand their stores are trying to find the best property within a certain distance, that has access availability. It’s a land issue, just like siting a well pad. It’s amazing the different land positions these students are finding.

The ability to manage land rights across a wide variety of industries, including upstream oil and gas, midstream, pipelines, renewables, utilities, and mining, has made Pandell’s software a good fit for WVU students, whose career options now span a much larger geographic and sector breakdown than in previous years.

Next Gen Land Knowledge Requires Familiarity with Data Analytics and GIS

Many land programs have traditionally focused on fostering skills in contract negotiation, title work, and regulatory knowledge. However, current employers have expanding needs for talent who can draw meaningful conclusions from large quantities of land data and can strategize both inside the office and in the field. For example, a recent North America Clean Energy (NACE) article describes how leading companies are deploying dashboard analytics and GIS tools to land experts to help drive better decision making and resource utilization.

Digital maps and land records can be powerful sources of information for the professional that knows how to use them to answer real-world questions, such as determining the best path for a new pipeline or locating missing ownership information needed to acquire a property asset.

By integrating Pandell’s GIS and land software into the curriculum, WVU students can explore more project-driven scenarios like the ones above. “Students like that a lot more,” Dr. Grushecky said. “They feel like they’re doing something that’s real world and not just listening to me speak.

Universities Need Active Industry Partnerships to Keep Data Fresh and Software Skills Current

As the field of land management evolves and becomes more technologically dependent, the need to have access to current, real-world data and software becomes paramount to student success. In order to give their students the best employment opportunities, programs like WVU’s must lean on corporate partnerships that can provide them with datasets, problems, and software products that are currently in use in the land management and energy industries.

As a higher education institution, we look to build partnerships that will give our students a competitive edge,” explained Andrew Barnes, Director of Development at WVU Davis College. “Having an ongoing partnership with Pandell where there’s a reciprocal feedback loop helps us grow and evolve in our understanding of the software and learn throughout the process. Building these relationships in the industry is a huge benefit for us.

Pandell Gains Continual Feedback from the Next Generation of Software Users

Developing a relationship with WVU has offered Pandell a valuable opportunity to improve how its software serves the land management professional.

It’s a benefit for Pandell because it helps us gather feedback from university staff and students on how the software is working for them; what features they like and don’t like; and then be able to integrate that feedback into our future roadmaps,” said Laura Holt, Director of Land Products at Pandell. “WVU offers a unique perspective because of the variety of land use cases covered in its land program, as well as the volume of tech-savvy college students interacting with the software every day.”

Through its ongoing partnership with WVU, Pandell hopes to shape and be shaped by the next generation of land professionals. “Pandell is helping us fulfill our land grant mission by preparing these students to work in the community in which they live and in the surrounding areas,” said Dr. Kenneth Blemings, Interim Dean of WVU Davis College. “That’s why we’re here.”

Article Citation
Article reposted from Growing the Next Generation of Land Professionals, Markets Insider, April 22, 2020.


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