1 Apr, 2019

Get the Most Out of a PetroSkills Course

Have you ever wondered how to get the most out of a training course? Every year, we have thousands of participants who go through the process of selecting, attending and applying PetroSkills training. This tip of the month provides a guide to help you have the most impactful training experience and apply your newly learned knowledge to your career. 

In this article, we will discuss how to:



 “I had a ship’s captain and a land surveyor show up for an advanced project management course. During a different session I had four business, accounting and contract administrators attend one of my intermediate pump and compressor selection courses. I did my best to give them value for their time. Careful selection of courses will pay significant dividends and reduce situations like these.”                                                                                                                               - PetroSkills Instructor

Start with selecting the discipline of the field you work in, and then determine your level of competency. Address the following questions:

Has your competency been objectively assessed?

• Self-Assessment

• Supervisor or subject matter expert assessment

How does your competency need to be increased?

• Raise competency in skills areas where it is below the target level

• Increase competency in strong skill areas by challenging yourself with advanced courses

Using the information identified by your competency assessment it is time to start selecting the appropriate course. Visit the potential course pages to read the course descriptions and learning objectives to determine if the course addresses your needs.


How to Use a Course Progression

As an example, the PetroSkills project management course progression, shown below, depicts the 2019 coverage of our courses. Early career project managers often benefit from Foundation level courses, and mid-career project managers can choose from a broad selection of general, focused and related intermediate courses. Advanced courses deal with specialized topics found in international petroleum mega projects and programs.

Each of the disciplines in PetroSkills has a course progression chart that can be used to begin the search for the right course.



Active listening is crucial to absorbing the information taught in a course. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review, two months after listening to a talk, the average listener only remembers about 25% of what was taught.1 Their point being, if you barely learn something you are not going to retain the information after time passes.


• Be purposeful — Arrive with a learning goal based on your competency needs and the issues/ challenges you are facing on your job.

• Engage — Participate in discussions and contribute to the group’s learning

• Avoid distractions — Put your cell phone away! Calls and texts can be returned during breaks.

• Take good notes — This will help you stay focused and make connections between topics.

• Reflect –- The greatest learning occurs when participants reflect on an issue and build upon prior knowledge


Active listeners ask four questions while they listen to each topic.

1. What problem will this content help solve?

2. What is being said in detail, and how is it being said?

• For project management and business professional courses, this question is about discovering the key points, assertions and arguments that constitute the instructor’s recommended practice.

• For technical courses, this question is typically about applying scientific principles, techniques, and equations to produce models and design concepts for petroleum subsurface, drilling and surface facilities.

3. Is the information valid? - Active listeners will pay attention to evidence that supports the main ideas and the detail that supports the development of calculations and technical designs.

4. Why does this matter? - The best listeners will walk away from a course knowing why the information is relevant in today’s industry and be able to apply the concepts to their work.


Taking Notes

Note taking is a critical part of learning while attending a training course. I recommend marking up the provided copy of the slides as you go along. The following are some examples of keywords, phrases and major points that should be underlined or highlighted. Jotting a note in the margin about a key point or section not fully understood will help you recall it later.

Note Strategy: First set of notes  - taken during the course.

Your note strategy should vary depending on if the course is technical or non-technical. Read through the recommendations below:

Second set of notes – during the evening:

Clean up and organize your first set of notes

React to what you have heard

If you do not understand a section from the previous day you should always feel free to discuss it with the instructor for clarification.



Some disciplines, such as project management, are not a pure science and the instructor will often be making recommendations regarding the “best way” to manage a project. It is your responsibility as the learner to decide if it is sound. Think of the recommendation in terms of a house - the roof is the proposed method and the walls are the supporting rationale. You need explanations and evidence to support the proposal because without them the roof will fall.  

What types of evidence should you be looking to support the argument?


When an explanation is offered, ask yourself:

Is it possible?

-Is the explanation still workable on closer examination?

Is it plausible?

-Is it reasonable to think that something like this might have taken place, given the evidence?

Is it probable?

-Is it the best explanation, considering the competing options?

-Believability always sides with the most likely choice.



Many instructors will go through a debriefing exercise at the end of each section.

Three questions are often asked:

Contribute by looking back at your notes, reflecting on your key points and joining the discussion.



Getting the most out of a PetroSkills course requires:

• Selecting the right course using competency gap analysis

• Scrutinizing course descriptions to ensure a needs match

• Actively listening and contributing to discussions

• Taking notes and reflecting on each day’s content

• Developing and asking questions that deepen understanding

• Participating in section debriefs to explore the significance of the learning

• Developing a plan to put what you have learned to work

Use this structured approach to select the right course, maximize your learning and improve your company. Becoming a “student of the game” is the first step on the journey to greater knowledge and skill.

Written by: Ken Lunsford

Ken Lunsford is the project management discipline manager at PetroSkills and teaches the following courses:

Project Management for Engineering and Construction - FPM22

Advanced Project Management - FPM62

Project Management in Upstream Field Development - FPM2

Turnaround, Shutdown and Outage Management - TSOM

Sign up to receive monthly Tip of the Month emails!


1. Stevens, Ralph G. Nichols, Leonard A. “Listening to People.” Harvard Business Review, 1 Aug. 2014, hbr.org/1957/09/listening-to-people.