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To avoid ‘extinction’ in changing times, industry must enhance management of personnel competency

Posted on 13 December 2012

By Joanne Liou, editorial coordinator

Improving the way personnel competency is defined and measured is critical to industry, explained William Hedrick, director human resources Middle East, Rowan Companies, at the IADC Critical Issues Middle East Conference in Dubai on 4 December.

The industry’s days of simply finding an able body to fill vacant shoes in the work force are long gone. The industry faces the big crew change in a time of significant growth, and in the words of Charles Darwin, “it’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but it’s the one most responsive to change,” William Hedrick, director human resources Middle East, Rowan Companies, shared at the 2012 IADC Critical Issues Middle East Conference in Dubai on 4 December.

Broadly speaking, Mr Hedrick believes, industry will need at least 25,000 new workers – and as many as 70,000 – by the end of 2015, not including office and support personnel with customers and service providers, to efficiently and safely conduct business. “We as an industry must evolve. We must adapt because the alternative to that, as Darwin also put, is extinction,” Mr Hedrick explained. For the drilling industry, extinction would not necessarily mean companies would cease to exist. Rather, it is how the public will react to the industry going forward making industry’s response to personnel and skills management now all the more critical.

The pool of available and competent employees is running short, and industry must continue to consider other options. In the past two years, for example, Rowan has broadened its personnel search beyond traditional areas in each of its operating regions. “We’re going into areas where we can see specific transferable skills, particularly in mechanical and electrical fields, and how we can take those skills to ramp them up to meet our specific needs on our maintenance teams,” Mr Hedrick said.

Another opportunity to support a trained and competent work force exists in working with customers to enhance contractors’ ability to identify and train high potentials, also known as HIPOs, in an accelerated manner. “In many of the contracts we see today, perhaps more so in the North Sea than in the Middle East region, our customers are asking for a driller who has eight years experience,” Mr Hedrick said. This minimal positional requirement overshadows the substantial qualifications of an individual and what is necessary in the way of experience.

“There are individuals that can certainly ramp up from the senior foreman or derrickman level into a driller’s slot in two to three years with no difficulty,” he added. “Let’s recognize the individual’s qualifications and abilities as opposed to simply saying, ‘This is how it should be. We will not accept any individuals in these positions with less than ‘X’ experience.’”

In order to do this, however, Mr Hedrick highlighted the need to clearly define competency in our work force. “Competency is something we’re all striving for,” he said. “However, there’s a disconnect as to what competency is. You can find different definitions from a Google search to UK HSE’s definition, which seems to be the one most widely accepted: the individual ability to safely and efficiently perform any task, a given task or role, repetitively.”

Defining competency is necessary, not just for drilling contractors but for operators as well, to ensure a common framework on how to drive competency, he said. “Then, let us as individual enterprises determine how we will meet those specific bullet points within that framework,” Mr Hedrick continued. IADC launched its Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSA) project earlier this year to establish worldwide competence guidelines for virtually all rig positions. “IADC has always been the leader in competence-based accreditation, and it’s great to see the (KSA) process is evolving, improving to meet the needs of our industry in the future,” he commented.

In addition to collaboration with operators, manufacturer cooperation also is critical in supporting safe and efficient training and operations. “We need to make certain training is available and not simply sitting in a classroom listening to someone drone on for two weeks,” Mr Hedrick explained. The hands-on aspect of training and providing experience in specific mode failures can limit downtime for customers, increasing overall well efficiency.

He also emphasized the importance of available training from manufacturers. “We have to be able to cooperate and make certain that when equipment is sold that it is understood that there will be a specific training schedule before it is fully delivered in the rig commission.”

“We have the greatest opportunity our industry has ever been faced with in the next three years. We’ve never seen a building boom like we’re seeing today. We already realize that the ripple effect for both the operator and driller and service providers will probably exceed 100,000 new faces in this industry,” Mr Hedrick stated. “With that opportunity comes the responsibility of what we as management must meet. We have to provide our customer the safest workplace possible with the appropriate procedures, policies and equipment in place so that we can meet those needs and move forward. Ultimately, that is our responsibility.”

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