26 Jul, 2017

Commentary on: “After Years, ‘Big Crew Change’ Has Passed, But Learning, Training Challenges Remain”

Recently, our CEO, Ford Brett was featured in an article by JPT focused on the “Big Crew Change” and challenges that remain as a result in the oil and gas industry. Brett was asked to comment on what he thought about the shift in employment, learning and training challenges. So we talked to Mr. Brett about his ideas from the piece to get a deeper understanding of his thoughts.

According to Brett, the issue today is how to handle the large number of people retiring without the same numbers ready to take their place. This pertains not only to their number but to their depth of experience.

 “If it takes no time to train anybody, then the crew change is over, but I don’t believe that’s the case personally. We’ve finished the head count, so we have to make sure we finish the head content. The first one is easy, the second one is hard” (Parshall, 2017). 

Brett believes if we could “instantaneously transfer everything about finding oil and getting it out of the ground, [the big crew change] would be done.” Those who define the Big Crew Change as simply the act of replacing the baby boomer workforce consider it close to over. However, when one takes into consideration the knowledge gaps of the replacements and the training required to fill those gaps, it is clear that the industry has some work left.. “The information doesn’t just transfer from the retirees to those joining the industry,” says Brett. I learned most [from my training] in the time after 28-years-old or so. It’s just a complicated business. It takes a while to learn.”

Another concept examined in the JPT article is microlearning. Brett agrees that yes, microlearning can be a useful tool; however, “there’s a difference between foundation-building education and microlearning, or, learning at the point of need. You need both. One isn’t better than the other.” For example, imagine that your mother is teaching you the English language. Not every word but enough for a foundation. With that foundation, if there is a word you do not know you can look it up in the dictionary, but you cannot learn to speak English from a dictionary alone. This is just like training in the industry. There are some basic things you need to know to be useful in the industry – a foundation of knowledge. Once you have that foundation, things like learning the specifics of an equation can be learned in a microburst.

So where does Brett’s company, PetroSkills, fit into this equation? He asserts that PetroSkills’ job is to work with industry to create competent petroleum professionals. There are two ways to learn - the first is to learn by doing and the second is formal learning. He sees PetroSkills as the provider for the second way. “We make employees more valuable to their company and to themselves by providing a formal way to learn that reduces the time to competency.”

The JPT article talks about a shift in the industry towards the need for a blended learning experience. One of the main challenges with blended learning is getting participants to focus on the task at hand rather than multitasking between multiple things. Brett believes there are advantages and disadvantages to blended learning. The advantages are you can train anytime, anywhere, it cuts down on travel costs, and the participant can learn easier with smaller amounts of information at a time. Disadvantages include less face-to-face interaction with the instructor, less ability to have questions answered right away, and it is harder to create focused learning time. Brett mentions a saying that goes, “anything you can do tomorrow you can do never”. With 24-7 blended learning, the training is up to the drive of the participant.

At PetroSkills, we rolled out our virtual/blended learning modules in 2016. Both the structural design of the programs and unique learning platform are designed to keep the participant engaged and on track. “We have a very successful program that people like, and that teaches them core learning in the petroleum business,” Said Brett. Some people like it better [than face-to-face], not everyone. But it does work.”

What sets PetroSkills’ virtual/blended learning apart is that “the training is directed at practical competencies that people need. If you need to learn about gas lift right now we can tell you about it,” The objective of learning through the blended approach is to mix different learning methods to keep people engaged. This includes not only reading, but also lectures, quizzes and engaging with instructors. Another important feature to PetroSkills’ virtual/blended learning is that if you already know the topic you do not have to relearn it. The modules are set up so that participants can test out of sections they are already proficient in and get to the topics they need to learn about. The participant can tailor the experience to his or her needs. To learn about all the benefits of our virtual/blended learning training visit our blog.

Written by: Samantha Masey

To see the original JPT article click here.

Would you like to read more articles like this? Sign up for email updates!










Parshall, J. (2017, June 29). After Years, ‘Big Crew Change’ Has Passed, But Learning, Training Challenges Remain. Journal of Petroleum Technology. Retrieved from https://www.spe.org/en/jpt/jpt-article-detail/?art=3062