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FMC vocational technical training recognizes importance of non-technical skills

By Linda Hsieh, Managing Editor

The oilfield service business is a people business, and when you deal with human beings, there are no absolutes. In the world of vocational technical training, this means that learning plans must be constructed to take out as much of that uncertainty as possible. Each individual employee must demonstrate a base level of competence before going into the field.

“It has to start with a solid foundation of knowledge,” Tom Standley, Global Program Manager for the School of Applied Technologies at FMC Technologies, said. He compared this approach to the training programs that pilots must go through. “It just makes sense to me that before you fly an airplane, you really need to understand something about flight theory – what makes the plane go forward, what keeps it in the air and what makes it not fly.”

In terms of service technicians, whether shop-based or field-based, this means employees must be equipped with basic knowledge of everything from mechanics to electronics to hydraulics. “For example, most students today don’t understand the concept of pressure as it relates to creating force, but that’s a fundamental concept that everybody in our business really should understand,” Mr Standley said.

Non-technical skills such as communication and situation awareness are equally important, FMC recognizes. “The interpersonal aspect of being able to look a companyman or a driller in the face and communicate what you’re doing and why you’re doing it is an important skill,” Mr Standley said. “You also need to have the ability to stop the job if you know something isn’t being done properly or if a shortcut is being taken.”

He also emphasized the importance of integrating best practices into field operations – you can’t teach employees one thing but allow them to do something else. “We can assess how well the student has learned in the classroom or in a lab, but there is no guarantee that assessment will hold true unless there is follow-through within the whole organization.” For example, a technician can be taught to follow certain procedures and methods during classroom training. But once in the field, “if a more senior technician doesn’t reinforce what was taught in class, that previous learning will be extinguished.”

Mr Standley also advocated more frequent competency checks for industry employees. “Pilots are required to have biennial reviews of their competencies. I really think the oil and gas industry should look at formalizing a process for having periodic, if not continual, competence checks for our employees as well.”

FMC is currently restructuring its learning management system to ensure standardization for its 20,000 employees worldwide. Seven schools have been set up: School of Engineering, School of Applied Technology, School of Planning, School of Project Management, School of Manufacturing, School of Leadership and Professional Studies, and School of HSE.

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