Drilling Ahead: Webinar on competency clarifies complex topic

Posted on 18 March 2013

By Mike Killalea, editor & publisher

Technology is our industry’s defibrillator. Without it, we would have shared the same calamitous demise that befell blacksmiths and buggy makers. Unable to pursue any but the lowest-hanging fruit, we’d end up beating our rigs into plowshares.

Instead, thanks to our determination to drill the undrillable, we develop prospects in miles-deep water. We flipped conventional wisdom on its head and transformed the USA from a long-standing addiction to imported oil to a nation on the cusp of energy independence.

But technology demands competence in a number of interesting ways. First, the newfangled tools and rigs bursting on the stage of well development demand trained, sophisticated workers (apologies to Bubba and Boudreaux).

Second, the prospects, onshore and off, that technology has opened demand vast new rig fleets, so far largely unpeopled. Staff must be brought in and brought up to speed – pronto.

The means to ratchet up training processes resonates in all sectors of our industry. Here, our business needs align with regulatory and HSE requirements.

IADC is in the thick of the action. In late February, we posted an hour-long webinar on competency. (The webinar will remain online until the end of May.)

Sponsored by Lloyd’s Register and titled “What is Competence and how can it help your organization?”, the event featured three experts – Malcolm Duncan, Lloyd’s Register competency manager; John Tustin, Petrofac operations director of competence solutions; and Dr Brenda Kelly, IADC senior director of program development.

“Competence is a very large and complex topic,” remarked moderator Mark Denkowski, IADC vice president-accreditation and credentialing.

The thrust of the event was to define competence and the “language of competency”; outline details of employee assessment; highlight designing and implementing a competence program; and discuss helpful tools offered by IADC.

Competence speak

Like most complex concepts, one can endlessly define and refine the idea. Mr Tustin, however, presented an elegant and comprehensive definition: the ability to consistently perform a given task to a pre-determined standard.

Being competent is a blend of experience, skills, knowledge and understanding, and attitude, he said.

Experience, for instance, is a key ingredient. But that is not necessarily equivalent to tenure.

“I have been in this profession for 30 years,” Mr Tustin said, “but I could be less competent than Malcolm (Duncan), who has been in the profession for five years. It’s not about length of time.”

Typically, competency programs are framed around HSSE, quality, drilling operations, marine operations, maintenance, and specifics on assets or equipment.


Competency assessment is a step-wise procedure, explained Mr Duncan. Begin by planning and ensure the candidate is aware of the pending assessment. He or she must be informed regarding how his or her knowledge and skills will be judged. Assessment is not intended to be a “gotcha” effort. To the contrary, one of the major goals is building the employee’s self-confidence and identifying opportunities for coaching and training.

Next, conduct the assessment, following methodologies available from standards promulgated by ISO, API, OHSAS, and SEMS. Mr Duncan particularly recommends ISO 10667.

Then, interpret the results to weigh the individual’s competency. Last, provide feedback and evaluate the assessment.

Building your system

As in so many corporate pursuits, top-down commitment, from the boardroom to the rig floor, is critical in implementing a competence system. “It’s an essential beginning point of developing a competence program,” said Dr Kelly.

Other vital components are policies expressing commitment to a competence program; identifying responsibilities of people with key roles in the program; resources, including staff; administration processes; and quality assurance.

IADC offers a pile of resources to assist, such as our Competency Assurance Accreditation Program. IADC ensures that all components are in place and conducts a site visit.

Further, IADC is developing competency benchmarks for all rig positions. These KSAs are discussed in detail on p138.

Thanks to technology and smart competency programs, we can anticipate a sustainable future and well-trained personnel. Blacksmiths, eat your heart out.

Click here to register for IADC’s Competency webinar.

Click here to check out IADC’s competency tools.

Mike Killalea can be reached via email at mike.killalea@iadc.org.

1 Comments For This Post

  1. Clifford Says:

    Good thoughts. Competency is coeopsmd of three elements: Abilities, Skill and Knowledge. Training may not have anything to do with assessing competency unless the assessment finds the individual lacking. Then of couse actions must be taken to attempt to make them competent. Training implies providing information so that it can become knowledge and give the person a skill. If the person has weak abilities, chances are the knowledge nor the skill will stick.An organization must think of each job or function in the organization and determine the a.s.k. needed for that job or function. Through this exercise people can better be placed with a chance to succeed. This creates a win-win for all.

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