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Learning and Development in Energy, Oil and Gas

It might seem that the oil, gas, and energy industries, known for their perceived stability, wouldn’t have much room for learning and development (L&D). However, reality is quite the opposite. The primary need for L&D in oil, gas, and energy is incentivized by the ongoing need for industry professionals to possess the right skills to navigate continuous change.

What Training and Education is Needed to Work in Oil and Gas?

The oil and gas (O&G) industry requires most of its professionals to hold a degree in engineering, materials sciences, geology, chemistry, and physics. Taking that further, most will have specialization in chemical, petroleum, biochemical, and electrical engineering.

However, the industry isn’t picky about choosing those with a STEM degree. Oil and gas has always required job roles with more hands-on and technical trade skills including:

  • Welders and pipeline specialists
  • Mudloggers, to note soil chemistry and viscosity
  • Safety and QA
  • Derrickhands, who ensure that drills are properly guided and assist drilling managers
  • Drilling managers

The Need to Sharpen Skills in the Oil and Gas Industry

The processes involved in oil production have traditionally remained unchanged, leading to consistent skill requirements over time. However, new developments in energy technology, government mandates for energy providers, and a push for renewable energy sources will require an expansion of professional duties for personnel at every level. As a result, L&D teams are expected to lead the charge to prepare their employees to understand the evolving energy landscape in the coming decades.

For engineers, technicians, and project managers who work in the industry, constant learning and development is a must. According to one study by the Society of Petroleum Engineers, nearly 75% of employees stated that training and development programs were an important factor when considering a new role, while 53% of those surveyed indicated that a lack of professional opportunities within their companies would lead them to consider leaving for another. With the growth of alternative fuel sources and the need to expand services, L&D will need to expand how they operate in the training of technicians on the latest fuel and energy procedures.

Creating Effective Training Programs for Energy, Oil & Gas Professionals

Whether providing training at an oil refinery or guidance on green energy measures, thorough training & development is key to advancing professional goals for employees and strengthening productivity.

Streamlining Compliance and Safety Training

Compliance and safety training is mandatory in oil, gas, and energy, and implementing these programs is one of the first steps for all personnel given how dangerous conditions can be offshore or not. In offshore drilling rigs, for example, technicians are exposed to many climate and work-related hazards (Kvalheim & Dahl, 2016) including fire, explosions, hydrocarbon leakages, falls, hydrogen sulfide emissions, and in extreme cases diving bell accidents. With an increase in safety comes increased positive business outcomes. Safety training increased workplace safety by 30% , which correlated with decreased lawsuits and increased productivity.

The primary challenge with safety and compliance training is how long it takes for learners (employees) to complete a fully accredited course. Depending on which safety and compliance certification program L&D teams decide to use, it can take as long as 600 total learning hours for employees to complete.

L&D should look for new ways to streamline how learning gets done for safety training processes. First by conducting a training needs analysis and then reviewing previous training data, L&D can improve how training can be provided effectively without compromising the learners’ comprehension of the safety courses’ training material or its application in the field. For example, innovations like instructor-led training using new virtual reality tech can help reduce in-person session costs and improve understanding of safety protocols.

Incorporating on-the-job training

Regardless of the location – oil refinery, wind farm, or solar farm – learning on the job has been more effective for professionals in the energy industry than online instructional videos. Since many of the roles within oil, gas, and energy are more technical and hands-on, it makes sense why learning-by-doing is more applicable. From a psychological standpoint, it works as what’s learned during instruction gets applied in the field. Repeat that process multiple times throughout a training period and it eventually becomes second nature to field engineers, analysts, and technicians.

On-the-job training for oil and gas is a matter of the experienced helping the inexperienced. The concepts taught in one-time training can’t be memorized and used on day one. In implementing this route, L&D should look to pair up veteran employees with years of experience with junior staff so they can nurture their skills. According to Harvard Business School, when new employees look to learn new skills or seek advice on best practices, 55% look to their coworkers for assistance before asking their managers.

Embracing Subject Matter Experts as ILT Superstars

While not full-time instructors or trainers per se, subject matter experts are a gold mine when it comes to advancing learning programs that utilize instructor-led training (ILT). Why? With the average age of petroleum engineers at 43 and environmental engineers at 46, subject matter experts on the more technical side of the industry are resources that L&D can’t ignore. Depending on positions held and years of experience, SMEs carry an extensive amount of knowledge on their craft as well as the best protocols. For example, training programs for petroleum and gas professionals in Oman were first developed using insight from seasoned engineers before consulting instructional designers or even managed learning service providers.

However, that doesn’t mean the energy industry’s best should become full-time trainers and instructors. Subject matter experts in energy, oil & gas are excellent additions to helping L&D teams craft better training programs for both new and veteran employees of this ever-changing industry.

Regular Training Throughout the Year

Regular training for technicians, engineers, and drilling managers typically revolves around monthly quality assurance assessments and safety training. 

While these are excellent protocols to develop and certainly shouldn’t be overlooked, they do nothing to strengthen the workforce that’s already present. According to a Gallup survey, workers who were engaged in their work and saw progression in job duties were correlated with 43% less turnover of employees. In another study of offshore drilling teams, workers had overall increased work satisfaction when HR teams focused on improving job performance with guided training.

Whether the goal is to upskill or reskill talent, L&D and HR teams should regularly be involved with employees throughout their careers. The bigger challenge for training managers assigned to an oil field or rig would be how to best schedule face-to-face training for first-time training.

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L&D’s Role in Addressing New Challenges to Oil & Gas

Let’s address the elephant in the room since this guide began – the fossil fuel industry, of which oil, gas, and petroleum are included, – is under pressure to adapt to new fuel-sourcing methods or potentially go extinct altogether. Oil is a commodity needed by consumers worldwide and given the current atmosphere has been a subject of much interest in regards to its longevity. At least for the near future, the oil and gas industry is here to stay. The industry will certainly play a pivotal role in the next few decades however as policymakers shift their focus to alternative fuel sources, industry makers alike will need to adapt their services, products, and most importantly their human resources to pave the way.

Once operational managers provide the green light to the learning director or chief learning officer, it will be the goal of L&D to reformat the aim of training and development for current and new employees.

Alternative Fuel Resources and the Rise of Green Energy

It’s no surprise that the rise of alternative fuel sources has become a hot topic in and around the energy industry. For oil and gas executives, the topic has become a controversial one as continued research and application of these fuels serves as harbinger to the end of oil and gas.

However, big executives in O&G aren’t expected to panic just yet. Amidst growing concerns of global warming, environmental damage, and the increased sales of EVs, the industry is still expected to grow exponentially for the next decade per Deloitte’s 2023 Oil and Gas Industry Insight. However, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Transparency, the global supply of crude oil will only be sufficient until the year 2050. To add to that, alternative fuel sources, such as those from vegetables, alcohol, and water, are expected to increase in usage over the next 20 years.

L&D has the opportunity to lead the shift in new professional skills development amongst employees working in the energy sector. Training programs for those in oil and gas as well as alternative fuel source providers are expected to provide a wealth of new training resources.

From Uncertainty to Opportunity: Transitioning Jobs in Fossil Fuels to Renewable Energy

L&D managers in oil & gas and other energy sectors shouldn’t be worried. Despite a decline in oil and gas workers between 2000 to 2022 and an increase in oil production, job satisfaction amongst oil workers remains low due to stagnant wages and concern over alternative fuels according to a recent report by True Transition

However, the classic economics case study of swaths of unemployed workers due to their now obsolete industry can be avoided. Instead of firing and hiring new, young talent for renewable energy products, companies can make an effort to slowly transition workers’ skills gained in oil and gas towards the new tech used in green technology. The International Labour Organisation projects that the full transition to green technology and other sustainable measures will lead to the creation of over 103 million new jobs worldwide by 2030.

Now more than ever before, L&D teams will carry a more significant role in transitioning an entire industry and its workers. After receiving new and green energy protocols, L&D teams will be responsible for leading multiple enterprise-level training programs for new employee onboarding, reskilling, and upskilling procedures, and help refine current QA processes for talent and development in the years ahead.

learning management energy oil gas

Developing New Subject Matter Experts in Energy Policies and New Fuel Technology

To no one’s surprise, the implementation of alternative fuel sources will shift the energy sector’s operational processes. The process of providing fossil fuels – from procurement, infrastructure maintenance, logistics & transportation, and refining – will change faster than expected.

To be prepared for such a radical shift, L&D has an opportunity to invest more time in developing new training procedures that are designed to help their employees succeed in a rapidly changing energy landscape.

What new fuel technologies will the energy sector need to invest in? According to the US Department of Energy, there are several renewable and alternative fuel sources available for vehicle use including:

  • Biodiesel
  • Electricity
  • Ethanol, derived from corn
  • Hydrogen
  • Renewable diesel
  • Solar power
  • Wind power
  • Hydroelectric

Addressing the Green Skills Gap

With the projected shift from fossil fuels to more sustainable and environmentally friendly fuel sources, the energy sector will have its own unique skills gap. So much so that some have dubbed it the “Green Skills Gap” about the general skills gap faced by other industries.

What are Green Skills? Green skills include the understanding of environmental policies but also the expertise in communicating technical knowledge on services, processes, and equipment.

According to an Environmental Impact Report by The Economist, 55% of companies are planning on developing green skills programs. Despite the potential shift in fuel sources, amongst the energy companies surveyed, 81% agreed that investing in green skills training would lead to creating higher quality jobs and 73% agreed that it would create more jobs than eliminate.

Green skill training programs will require learners to have a comprehension of the policies and procedures on the transition to renewable and sustainable fuel sources. Topics likely to be covered are:

  • Pollution and greenhouse gas reduction policies
  • Carbon footprint reduction
  • Renewable energy production and processes
  • Micro and macro measures to reduce negative emissions
  • New green technology development

While carbon recapturing and other quasi-clean energy production measures by oil and gas will last long enough, the future of cleaner technology is eminent for the globe’s future. With no change coming in sight, L&D in all sectors of the industry must prepare to develop fast and efficient training protocols to prevent a deficiency in green technology talent and to keep their industry staffed with well-skilled professionals.

Technology and Tools to Improve Learning Delivery

The direction of the energy industry and the need for new skills by its professionals will require L&D teams to provide new training and development programs. From a high-level overview, planning training courses and each training session may seem straightforward, but as L&D professionals know, it’s anything but.

The logistics of learning on the administrative side are complicated. With 65 million people and counting employed in the industry, training managers and L&D directors will be responsible for ensuring there’s a smooth transition of skills for both new and familiar talent to the industry. To help address the volume of training needed, L&D circles have implemented eLearning portals to help speed up training for employees. However, most L&D specialists soon learn that with an increase in efficiency comes a decrease in skill comprehension.

Technical and hands-on training for the energy sector can only be partially handled by online training. The debate between eLearning and ILT doesn’t even apply here given how so many of the professionals in renewables as well as oil & gas need expert-led guidance in person.

Training Management System: The Answer to Coordinate Learning Programs for Energy, Oil & Gas 

The planning, developing, and coordination of learning events are usually run through a myriad of loosely connected platforms. For training coordinators, the training system is usually a “combination” of calendars and spreadsheets.

Sometimes the training management plan can look something like this:

  • Calendar one – course schedule dates
  • Calendar two – session dates
  • Spreadsheet one – training budget allocation
  • Spreadsheet two – resource allocation by cost
  • Spreadsheet three – available resources for training (i.e. rooms, equipment, trainers)
  • CRM – holding all the information altogether

And that’s potentially just for one course.

The issue with training management for enterprise-level learning is that there is too much work on the administration side of L&D to organize learning events. This is on top of the dysfunctional “system” in place where training managers and learning specialists have to toggle back and forth between different sources of information.

For L&D teams tasked to train hundreds of professionals in the energy sector, teams should opt to focus on a dedicated training management system (TMS) as opposed to a learning management system

TMS software like Training Orchestra is equipped to manage all aspects of the administrative side of learning. Instead of multiple spreadsheets and disjointed third-party software, training management systems allow L&D teams working on energy sector-based training programs to modify the most critical aspects of their training programs:

  • Coordinating course schedules and calendars
  • Instructor, trainer, and SME management
  • Managing the cost of training
  • Measurement of learning analytics and reporting on training results

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