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Empowering a nation through education
Zechariah Yakap (left) with Managing Director Wapu Sonk, Kumul Petroleum.

Empowering a nation through education

Kumul Petroleum, PNG’s national oil company, aims to educate a new generation of Papua New Guineans for technical jobs in the oil and gas industry. “Kumul Petroleum Academy was established for that purpose”, says Managing Director Wapu Sonk, “and our Graduate Development Program aims to educate future leaders in the industry.”

Petroleum Engineer Zechariah Yakap is one such future leader. Growing up in Enga Province, he’s been with Kumul Petroleum since graduating from Unitech with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering. “I started in 2015 as a Facilities Engineer but soon moved on into petroleum engineering. That is basically what happens below the surface, monitoring and optimising the extraction of oil and gas.”

“As part of Kumul Petroleum’s Graduate Development Program I spent seven months in Madrid at Repsol’s Centro Superior de Formacion. The program is a condensed Master of Petroleum Engineering — we had to learn in seven months what would usually take 11 months to learn.”

“It was very intense. School hours were Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm and we had homework on top of that. Every Monday we started a new subject and every Friday we had our exam in that subject. We were 19 students from all over the world. Kumul Petroleum represented the South Pacific with two students; there were four Canadians and students from countries like Brazil, Kazakhstan, Angola, Bolivia, Argentina, Libya, Portugal as well. We all lived in the same building in the centre of Madrid and had a one hour train ride to and from university every day.”

“As a Kumul Petroleum employee I had a bit of an advantage. The lectures were run by experienced engineers and scientists so they were more focused on real life experiences, rather than the theories behind them. With less than 100 staff, Kumul Petroleum is quite a small player globally so as a young technician I get real life experience much quicker than I would in a company with 25,000 or more employees. So both students from Kumul Petroleum did really well.”

“Living in another country was a great experience. Madrid is a beautiful old city, lively and not too big. One of my highlights was a La Liga soccer game between Madrid’s two main clubs, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. Even in my wildest dreams, I never thought I would experience Cristiano Ronaldo play soccer live!”

“Coming back to work for Kumul Petroleum after my studies, I realised how much I had learnt. My job is the same but I’m much better at it. I have a new confidence in my decisions, I ask less questions and less review is required. My stay in Madrid has added a lot of value to my personal development and I have a lot more to offer Kumul Petroleum as an employee.”

During Kumul Petroleum’s Graduate Development Program, Zech has not only been to Spain but also to Japan, Malaysia, China and Australia. “Without Kumul Petroleum my life would look very different. I’m privileged and very proud to work for an organisation that trains Papua New Guineans to be able to take on jobs at any level in the industry. That’s the way forward for Papua New Guinea and I look forward to helping create an even better future for my country.”

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