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The engineering program at Texas A&M University gathered 70 deep water industry leaders on its campus October 18 to discuss the how to best develop a program in subsea engineering, a field dealing with the challenges related to oil and gas to the exploration, drilling and development of oil and gas fields in underwater locations deeper than 600 feet.

"Offshore oil and gas reserves are increasingly important sources of energy and subsea engineering is an area of extreme importance to our nation that is not being adequately addressed in higher education," said John Sharp, chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. "Because the A&M System is uniquely capable of meeting this challenge, we are formalizing our plans to create the premier subsea engineering program in the nation."

Hosted by the Dwight Look College of Engineering and the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, the invitation-only discussion with executive-level leaders sought industry perspective on how academics and research could best prepare a subsea engineering workforce.

"We are well positioned to make a significant impact in this area with a breadth and depth in our engineering program, related agencies and A&M System institutions that is unmatched in academia," said Katherine Banks, vice chancellor and dean of Texas A&M Engineering. "The timing is perfect, as we are growing our program significantly, and incorporating new teaching technologies that will facilitate distance learning certificate programs and master’s level courses."

Society of Petroleum Engineers President and Schlumberger Vice President Jeff Spath provided a snapshot of the subsea engineering industry and projections for growth.

"With over 10,000 subsea wells projected by 2025, it will be crucial to have enough trained engineers, as half of the engineering workforce will be eligible to retire. When people think of Texas A&M, they think of quality engineers and the ability to deliver education to engineers working in the field is a tremendous advantage."

Next steps include outlining an action plan to address academic programs, workforce development, and research collaboration. Course offerings at the master’s degree and certificate level in subsea engineering are tentatively planned for fall 2014.