Addressing the Training Issue

NGWA is helping train the industry with its online platform, Drilling Basics Online.

By Brian Snelten, PG

As president of the National Ground Water Association, I take seriously the job of listening and surveying our membership to find impactful ways we can serve them as an Association.

In the last year, I have attended industry trade shows, membership meetings, and of course drilling sites, and one constant issue I keep hearing about is a dramatic need for more and better-trained employees.

If you’re reading this right now, I bet you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Many of our contractors are facing a serious issue with finding employees, especially young people, who are interested in getting involved in the water well industry and taking the time for proper training. Plus, this problem only seems to be getting worse as demand for our industry continues to grow. I don’t know a single driller who isn’t extremely busy and booked out for jobs months in advance; some even need to turn down jobs due to the lack of qualified help.

The evidence also is not purely anecdotal. According to Oklahoma State University, the industry will need an additional 130,000 people in the next 10 years alone to meet nationwide demand.

While labor issues may not be new to the industry, I am happy to report that NGWA has been hard at work creating new ways to address the issue. Earlier this year, through a collaboration with Oklahoma State University, NGWA officially launched our online training platform, Drilling Basics Online.

Drilling Basics Online is a new digital platform created to increase access to the basics of water well contracting and groundwater science. Developed with experts in both geology and water well contracting, we feel it will play an important role in addressing both the quantity and the quality of those who enter the industry.

Drilling Basics Online currently offers five courses: General Workplace Safety, Geology and Groundwater, Hydrogeology and Fluid Mechanics, Rig Types and Well Design, and Drill Rig Safety.

Each of these courses is designed to introduce key concepts to new drillers and to serve as refresher courses for veterans of the industry. And, because they are completely online-based, these courses can be completed from home or the office.

Every course offered on Drilling Basics Online is designed to teach the core competencies and skills that appear on NGWA’s groundwater drilling exams and many other certification exams required across the country. Each course will also earn those who complete it 10 continuing education units issued by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.

The courses within Drilling Basics Online will prove to be some of the most valuable and comprehensive drilling courses available because they were developed by NGWA experts and volunteers who have dedicated their lives to the industry. Our goal was to create a program that would not just teach about vague concepts and ideas but teach the day-to-day skills needed to be a groundwater professional.

I feel Drilling Basics Online will also provide a younger generation with a true sense of the complexities and challenges that go into drilling, which is a good thing. It will open their eyes to an industry that is still growing and advancing and is by no means stuck in the past. It’s a job that requires intelligence, education, hard work, and innovation—and there is still plenty of room to grow.

I also want to be clear: NGWA as an organization is in no way stepping away from the traditional classroom and onsite education that our industry was founded on. In fact, we still wholeheartedly support it and feel it is a critical part of training and educating our workforce. We are simply attempting to provide as many resources as possible and avenues for educating and growing our workforce to meet current and future demands.

Like most big undertakings, these courses only exist because they were a passion project for a dedicated few who wanted to find new and exciting ways to improve the groundwater industry. While there were many volunteers and staff along the way that ensured these classes were made available online, I need to extend a sincere thank you to current NGWA Directors Robert Keys, CWD, and David Traut, MGWC, CVCLD.

Without their steadfast dedication and resources committed to making Drilling Basics Online a success, we certainly would not be where we are today. So, next time you see Robert and David, thank them for their hard work and dedication to making sure our industry, and our members, continue to be the best there is.

What They’re Saying
Drilling Basics Online is a great example of what we can accomplish when we come together to tackle the big issues facing our industry. The information contained in these courses also reflects the true collaboration behind their creation, and we are going to see a better trained and more engaged workforce because of it.
Terry S. Morse, CAE, CIC
National Ground Water Association CEO

As a drilling contractor have you ever heard, “I have the work, but I cannot find someone to operate the rig!” Welcome to the labor market of 2022. We are fighting a labor shortage, and make no mistake about it, we are competing not with the driller down the street for talent, but rather we are competing with all trades looking for individuals to hire.

NGWA along with its Board of Directors has been listening to contractors about this topic. Drilling Basics is a new training project we have been working on in conjunction with Oklahoma State University. It is designed to give a new person coming into the groundwater industry a fast track on what they need to know to have a basic understanding of the groundwater industry and hopefully create a passion for their career choice—or as I like to refer to it, their career entry.
David Traut, MGWC, CVCLD
Mark J. Traut Wells Inc. and NGWA Board of Directors member

Water well drilling is becoming a lost profession. It is becoming a lost art with the major well drilling workforce of the last 50 to 60 years retiring and leaving a huge void in the training of the next generation of well drillers. Drilling Basics is the bridge for the next generation created by Oklahoma State University, a land grant college, and NGWA—two of the most committed organizations in the world for water well proliferation and excellence in the world.
Richard Greenly
Pumps of Oklahoma Inc.

I believe in this program and I’m proud of the work we are doing. We train people to safely access and protect our groundwater. We show young students the world of groundwater they never knew existed. We bring awareness to careers that have more seats to fill than people to fill them. These are efforts I can rally behind and I’m excited to see what comes next!
Caitlin Barnes, Ph.D.
Oklahoma State University

Brian Snelten, PG, is the president of the NGWA Board of Directors. An area manager for Layne Christensen, A Granite Company, in Aurora, Illinois, Snelten grew up in the groundwater industry and is a fourth-generation water well contractor. He can be reached at

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