As the oil and gas drilling industry advances into new frontiers with new technologies, it demands increasingly higher skill levels among workers. Yet historical ups and downs in the economy have created gaps in the work force. In fact, the current recession places us on the precipice of a new fracture in our personnel pipeline. In addition to workforce reductions related to reduced activity levels, our industry is facing large numbers of experienced people nearing retirement. Combined with the growing size of the worldwide drilling fleet, this sets up an environment that will require less-experienced workers to advance quickly into more responsible roles. All of this is occurring at a time when drilling is more technically complex than ever before.
We know from years past the long-term cost of the drilling industry going into a competency-loss spiral during a downturn. There will always be cycles in the energy business, and the ensuing up-side is generally better and more robust than the last. Consequently, there will never be a time when opting to reduce our focus on training our employees makes sense. It is the industry’s responsibility, in any economic environment, to make meaningful investments in the training and development of our future leaders. Today’s trainees will help manage tomorrow’s upturn.
Weak industry conditions that could be viewed by some as necessitating a significant reduction in training and development costs should instead be considered an imperative for improvement. The future of our business depends on building a work force of technically proficient professionals through all cycles. This can only be accomplished if we expand training at every level and enhance competency systems, regardless of what phase of a cycle we are experiencing.
Our customers demand highly trained and qualified personnel at all times. As a result, the industry is forced to fill gaps among the skills needed, particularly on newer, more advanced rigs, despite an aging work force and a shrinking candidate pool. While billions of dollars have been spent on growing the worldwide fleet, we can’t magically give an individual 15 years of experience in one or two years to help run this expanded fleet.
Any company whose business model focuses primarily on stealing employees from other contractors rather than growing its own talent is setting itself up for long-term problems. Therefore, a system of ongoing training and development is crucial to build a company’s bench strength, increase employee motivation and instill loyalty.
Also, our employees’ and customers’ satisfaction depends highly on our safety records. Training and development programs lead to heightened awareness by employees of our industry’s commitment to safety and environmental stewardship. We should value our employees and want to continue to build their appreciation for the safety measures in place, as well as for their responsibility to help ensure everyone’s safety on the job. We should never create safety exposure by putting people to work before they are fully trained, especially considering that today’s work force is being stretched thin while technology is becoming more complicated.
In addition to the business imperative to raise our employees’ technical competencies, we need to always improve their ability to lead others. Leadership training drives performance excellence across the organization, which contributes to a stronger bottom line and to our ability to grow and expand our businesses. While formal training is essential, day-to-day mentoring of tomorrow’s leaders is also important. Instilling leadership skills in our work force allows every employee the opportunity to grow within his or her functional role and become a stronger long-term contributor to the organization.
In summary, competency and safety training and leadership development of today’s work force, during all phases of market cycles, are keys to the future of the oil and gas drilling industry. Drilling contractors, service organizations and operators should act in partnership and take steps to prepare a competent work force to ensure safe, efficient and environmentally responsible operations.
Showing that you truly care about the safety and career development of your work force also attracts other people to your organization and to our industry. When we take the appropriate actions today, we lay the foundation that will enable us to continuously develop the work force necessary to help meet the world’s growing demand for energy.