In 2008, Harrie Vredenburg was working with PEMEX, Mexico’s state oil company, when he realized something was missing in the education of many oil
executives. “PEMEX had a cohort of middle managers that required the kind of training and education in management skills traditionally provided by an MBA
program, but the company didn’t want to send them away to study for two years,” he says. “There are a lot of state oil companies as well as multinational
companies and smaller oil companies, not just in Mexico but in China and the Middle East, all over the world, with the same issues.”
In the mid-1990s, when energy prices were low, many avoided careers in the sector and a gap in knowledge is the result. “That missing generation means that
there’s a lack of people at a higher management level with management and leadership skills,” explains Vredenburg.
In addition, “historically, multinationals operated in places like Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, China and India, which is where the industry is
booming,” he explains. “Now these resources are being developed by national oil companies, which have a dearth of knowledge, management and strategy
because they’re relatively new. They also have a new generation of people coming in, like at PEMEX, who are going to be the next generation to run these
companies – they need high-level management education and training.”
These insights landed Vredenburg where he is now, as the academic director of the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business’ Global Energy Executive MBA program, a joint venture with IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (IHS CERA). This year, the program’s first 15 participants from across
the world have enrolled.
The school has a traditional Executive MBA program, where participants work full-time and meet every other weekend, and that serves as the foundation for
the new program. “We took our classic Executive MBA and gave it an exclusive energy focus,” Vredenburg explains.
The program is 18 months long, and participants meet intensively for approximately two-and-a-half weeks at three-month intervals in different parts of
the world, including Calgary, Fort McMurray, London (U.K.), Saudi Arabia, Houston and India. Between visits, they attend online classes taught by both the
Haskayne professors and IHS CERA consultants.
Vredenburg says it is the only course of its kind in the world. “There are other energy MBA programs in Houston and Norway, but they’re majors in a general
MBA program – so you do a regular MBA, and you have a couple of energy electives,” he points out. “There are none that are totally co-ordinated around
energy, and structured over 18 months like ours.”
Gary Cochrane, who is the chairman and acting CEO for Bounty Mining Ltd., an Australian junior coal mining company, is among the first cohort.
“I like that this program offers block study time and that you study in a number of different countries,” he says. “I also like the connection with IHS
CERA, with whom I’ve worked and I know is a large international firm.”
Indeed, IHS CERA has been crucial to the program becoming a reality. “They have the kind of experts that couldn’t be found in a business school setting,”
Vredenburg says. “For example, there isn’t a business school academic anywhere whose specialty is the nuance of supply and demand dynamics in the coal
industry or the energy geopolitics of Russia – but IHS CERA has these experts.”