22 Apr, 2013

Navigating Around the Perfect Storm in Drilling Operations. Part 1.

In the drilling contractor and other oilfield service markets, the most painful manifestation of the Big Crew Change is among entry-level employees. Employers who are unable to readily poach staff from others in the same market typically try to recruit completely inexperienced people from outside the industry. Poaching is attractive because, at the very least, the target employee is currently working in the industry and may have acquired some relevant experience and skills. Even better, he’s acquired that experience at another company’s expense.   

The poaching strategy reduces the additional risk of failure that comes with a newcomer who doesn’t realize what he’s getting into in our industry. Many newcomers are attracted to the oil and gas industry because of the high wages and low educational requirements compared to other industries. But many find the reality of a 24/7 workplace in isolated conditions, subjected to strenuous physical demands, a shock.  

The combination of poor candidate screening, poor pre-job orientation and training, and urgent need to deliver workers is a recipe for disaster for both the newcomer and the employer. Because of poaching and newcomer failure, retention in the entry-level ranks tends to be very poor. In some cases the result is more than 100% staff turnover each year. Meanwhile, employers suffer with under-skilled staff who are more accident-prone, less productive, and require constant supervision from field supervisors who are already over-extended.

How can we reduce the huge demands and costs placed on HR departments and others to identify, recruit, screen, hire, and train these candidates?  

Is it possible to share these costs among all who benefit rather than have each employer “do his own thing” and carry the burden of all costs?  

From the workers’ viewpoint, is there a standard against which my skills can be measured that is recognized by industry so that when I do achieve competence in a position, it is recognized and rewarded?

In future blog posts we will explore these questions – and discover some surprising answers.

To Be Continued…


MARCUS A. (MARC) SUMMERS has over 30 years of oilfield experience and over 15 years of hands on training experience. He joined PetroSkills in 2008 and is currently V.P. of Drilling Operations Programs. For eleven years prior to that, he founded and ran PetrEX International, Inc. In 1980, he began working as a drilling engineer for Amoco for fifteen years in various locations around the world. His background includes operations, technical support, and drilling research functions. Since 1986 he has written a number of papers presented at SPE/IADC conferences and several articles published in Petroleum Engineer International, American Oil and Gas Reporter, etc. He received a B.S. in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Oklahoma and is a Registered Professional Engineer in Oklahoma.

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