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Analysis

Tailored Training Programs for Competent Oil Workforce

Wed, 01/22/2014 - 11:05

As one of the world’s leading competency developing partners for oil and gas companies, Petrofac Training Services has been in Mexico for just two years but has already been awarded several contracts with PEMEX. The company does not see its work limited to PEMEX since the country’s oil and gas supply chain has other needs, such as ensuring that best practices are standardized across the workforce. Karl Farrow, Petrofac’s Training Services Director does not believe that the country’s workforce lacks capabilities but that it is not aligned with certain successful practices used in other countries. To fix this, Petrofac needs to create an acceptable common ground. “We tend to work on capability models from competency frameworks, which include working with clients and government bodies from the education and aptitude angles. We are looking to align our competency structures with existing ones, and improve potential shortfalls,” says Farrow. He explains the biggest problem in the Mexican labor force is that the level of skill is insufficient for the level of demand. “There are many qualified people that just need a little push in terms of practical competency and experience.” The abilities are there but competency needs improvement, which is what Petrofac Training Services has specialized in throughout the world.

“The Mexican oil industry’s big challenge lies in the area of mid-range skills, a problem that is not exclusive to this country. A lack of mid-range competencies in technical skilled labor in high-growth regions and sectors always brings problems,” he says. “The labor demand will continue to grow, but the availability of skilled labor falls behind, as has happened in Mexico.” To fix this, Petrofac has aligned international best practices with accepted solutions for the development of the right competences and skills. “National universities and polytechnics are key in this strategy of implementing more practical training programs, as opposed to theory-based training. Mexico tends to do a lot of the latter, which accounts for the country’s lack of hands-on experience problem,” says Farrow. He finds similarities between the Mexican market and countries such as Malaysia and Singapore. The company currently manages one of the world’s only live hydrocarbon training centers, the Chemical Process Technology Center, a fully functional plant with an integrated training center in Singapore. Students in the center are exposed to live plant conditions throughout their training, to help fully prepare them for operations. Petrofac is looking to replicate this concept in Mexico with PEMEX, and is considering collaborating with an institution of higher education to get this off the ground. Petrofac is already building two training centers in Mexico to foster transfers of knowledge and the gaining of handson experience among PEMEX’s operational personnel. The training centers are located in PEMEX installations and are part of Petrofac’s contractual obligations. The plan is to expand on this model and develop more capabilities within and outside of PEMEX. “We certainly want to develop our capabilities here in Mexico,” says Farrow. “We have our own need for internationally qualified people as we have a 25- year operational commitment in this country.” The company is also working with the government in Tabasco and several universities on developing technical skills training programs.

No matter the scale of the training program, from Singapore to Tabasco, Petrofac’s courses consist of three stages: competence consultancy, competence development, and competence assessment. One of the benefits of the model is that, according to Farrow, even somebody with a high competency level can benefit from different training sessions. Petrofac Training Services has also made a name for itself through instruction programs simulating real life situations, focusing on core issues like safety training and offshore survival training. For offshore survival training, the company offers a two to three day intensive training session where individuals learn all about offshore safety procedures and proper procedures to follow in case of emergencies.

The offshore environment normally involves a lot of people in a concentrated area in remote locations with difficult access, so this program caters to such complex scenarios as helicopter escape training simulations in controlled and safe environments. Similarly, Emergency Response Crisis Management is aimed at improving the way individuals or teams responsible for crisis management react in stressful situations.

As part of its effort to improve its educational model and tools, Petrofac recently acquired Oilennium, a company specialized in online learning resources. This has given it access to a wide range of online training programs through Oilennium’s learning management systems (LMS). Petrofac currently offers over 200 courses though Oilennium’s LMS, some of which will be adapted to the Mexican market, taking into account national regulations and local requirements. This tool does not cover the whole learning process, but it fills in gaps and underpins the competency side of training. “We have a wealth of global experience, linked with a multicultural operating platform, which allows us to apply working and proven operating models across a broad range of regions and cultures,” Farrow says. With a presence in over 30 countries and approximately 50,000 people trained annually, Petrofac is seeking to come up with fresh instructional programs to help the Mexican oil and gas workforce to better adapt to their surroundings.