Magazine article Talent Development

Drilling to the Core of Training and Education

Magazine article Talent Development

Drilling to the Core of Training and Education

Article excerpt

Training and education are vital to maintaining Saudi Aramco's presence in today's marketplace. For more than 75 years, it has met challenges as a national oil company by accelerating the development of professional staff, applying unique company-specific inventions for oil and gas technologies, and providing leadership with tools to proactively manage the technological development of the workforce.

To meet long-term interests and growing challenges in more complex environments, the company's leadership undertook a bold initiative to build a training facility and design an integrated, responsive, customized professional training and development program to support exploration and production.

Time for transition

During the 1980s when oil prices were high, the company engaged in a recruitment campaign to hire professional engineers, which resulted in an increased inflow of petroleum engineering students. However, when oil prices decreased in the early 1990s, the company, and the industry, curtailed recruiting, which led to fewer students entering the profession.

The engineers hired 30 years ago are now close to retirement, fewer replacements will emerge in the next five years, and it takes about 10 years of training in various disciplines to develop the competencies to oversee project development. To respond to these challenges, Saudi Aramco saw 2010 as the year for transition.

A 140,000-square-foot training center was constructed at its headquarters in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, to train Saudi Aramco geoscientists and petroleum engineers. The Upstream Professional Development (UPD) Center has 18 high-tech classrooms with wall-to-wall viewing screens, LCD touch screens with 3-D capability, and breakout areas. The center also provides a drilling simulator where participants perform operations on a simulated rig, including inspecting rock and fluid properties "down hole" and viewing the sedimentology and stratigraphy of rock outcropping.

Curriculum elements

The company's UPD program will become an ongoing, future-paced initiative for upstream operations (exploration and production) technical staff. The curriculum and program will provide the resources needed to bridge the experience gap between young and experienced professionals, connect upstream disciplines in collaborative environments, and confront challenges that Saudi Aramco faces in a global economy.

"In the UPD [Center], participants build relationships and habits that encourage critical thinking and the exploration of all options. We are not only providing training that is collaborative, but communication that is collaborative," says Khalid Zainalabedin, director of continuing excellence.

The UPD curriculum targets the significant phases of the geoscientist's and engineer's career. The professional onboarding program is a first-level program for new hires, and covers their first six months of job-specific training. The second stage is the independent contributor program, with learning content focused on supporting the accelerated development of new geoscientists and engineers. The third and final level program develops the senior professional.

The initial audience comprises the eight upstream job families: geology, geophysics, drilling and workovers, petrophysics, reservoir engineering, production engineering, facilities engineering, and upstream computing. For every job family, the curriculum progresses from new hire to independent contributor to senior professional.

In the initial onboarding portion of the curriculum, students from all job families gain a breadth of information on the business, the contribution made by each discipline, and the integrated workflows required to find, develop, and deliver oil and gas. This also is an opportunity to introduce nontechnical soft skills critical for successful technical performance.

A course-dedicated professional development advisor (PDA), who reports to a management team, a supporting advisory committee, and a group of subject matter experts (SMEs) collaborate to determine the critical company-specific knowledge, skills, and behaviors required to be an independent contributor in a particular job family. …

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