Quality Training Can Lead to a Quality Career

You can have many employees thinking of making a career at your company.

By John Fowler, CSP, CMSP

The word “training” usually conjures up all too familiar images of watching endless videos or never-ending PowerPoint presentations.

Training gets a bad rap because a lot of it is only being done to fulfill a regulatory requirement or to check a box that proves some sort of mandatory training has been completed.

There is oftentimes little to no useful information and the people attending feel it was a total waste of time. The real shame is that most people enjoy learning information and bettering themselves.

However, there is a way to not only improve the training of your employees but also change the culture to one where employees are actively seeking out more training. Once that is happening, you will have well-trained and professional crews, and it will lead to a safer—and productive—operation.

With a quality training program, you can create a career advancement system that will change how your employees view your company. They will see you investing in their future and many will start to look at the work they do for you as a long-term career rather than just a job.

Create or Update Company Procedures

It all starts with building a quality training program. The first step in this process is to create or update the company’s written procedures because they are the foundation of any good training program. It is not a glamorous project, but a quality training program needs to deliver useful information and be consistent across the board.

To deliver useful information, the procedures need to be up to date with as much detail as possible. This step relies heavily on support from management because the only way to gather this information is either have someone onsite documenting every process being done or have a supervisor write down the process step by step.

This requires time spent from someone experienced working in the field, and time is money. However, the more detailed your written procedures are, the better your training program will be.

Once a procedure has been documented, follow up and ask if there are any unique hazards to a task or if there are any special tools or steps that must be done to safely complete the task.

For example, if there are any specific torques or PSIs or filter numbers, make sure they are documented. Include photos if your format allows pictures. You don’t need a picture for every step, but if there is a critical step, a photo can help clear up any confusion. For example, if the procedure is for locking out a piece of equipment, include a picture of the lockout point.

If you do not have your own format for your procedures, there are many free forms on the internet that can be used. A written procedure can be called by many different names: JSA (Job Safety Analysis), SOP (Safe Operating Procedure), SWP (Safe Working Procedure), just to name a few.

If you search “writing JSAs” or “writing SOPs” online, you will find many results ranging from articles to webinars that will help you create your own written procedure format. The format for the procedure should be easy to read and allow photos if possible. Don’t overdue the format with every bell and whistle because too much clutter makes the procedure hard to follow.

Remember: The more useful the information in the procedure, and the easier it is to follow, the better it will be for training, and the more likely crews will refer to it.

Choose a Method or Platform to Deliver Procedures

Once the decision has been made on the format, a decision will need to be made on the best method or platform for delivering the procedures out to the crews in the field. You really have two choices: using paper or using some form of technology such as a phone app.

If you are going to use paper, you will need to build a binder with a table of contents. The problem with this is that binders are often not stored with care and end up missing pages or getting water damaged.

Even if the binders are in good condition, written procedures require constant updating as things change. It is also a best practice to update your procedures with any lessons learned from near-misses and incidents or accidents that happened.

With a paper system, this will mean constantly replacing the procedures in each binder, which is not practical. In my opinion, the best system is using an app on a phone. There are apps out there that will let you store PDFs of your written procedures that can be easily searched by keyword.

Most apps will allow you to download the procedures so they can be viewed even when out of cell service. And if there is a change to a procedure, uploading the new procedure into the system will automatically update everybody’s phone with the newest version.

Build a Training Program

Once the procedures are documented and a format and delivery platform are decided upon, it is time to build the training program. To do this, decide which procedures someone should know for each specific task.

For example, employees should be trained on operating mobile equipment such as a water truck. If you are driving on public roads, a CDL (commercial driver’s license) is required, but just having a license does not mean the employee knows how to operate that particular water truck.

Training should be specific to that make and model of equipment and should cover everything associated with operating it—from inspecting it before use, to driving it, as well as how to lock it out when servicing it. Each one of those tasks needs to be linked to a written procedure.

All these written procedures need to be together, so that there is one training document for each piece of equipment.

The actual employee training is made up of two parts: knowledge of the procedures and time spent with an experienced employee. The employee being trained should review the written procedures to understand the company’s policies and how he or she is expected to complete the task. Then the employee should work with an experienced coworker, and when comfortable, should be allowed to complete the task under supervision.

If you want to move to the next level and increase your employee’s knowledge and professionalism, consider offering them advanced training such as welding certifications; CDL classes; mud schools; mobile crane classes; rigging classes; and even hydraulic, electrical, and mechanical classes.

These are the classes that should get your employees excited and at the same time show them the company is willing to invest money in them. It is important you find a good trainer to teach the classes so that the employees learn valuable information and receive some sort of certification. There are community colleges, and in some areas, third-party trainers who offer these types of training classes.

Verify and Track Who Is Trained

Once the training program is built, there needs to be a way to verify and track who is trained. A good system is one that is made up of task observations and signatures.

A best practice is to have one signature from the employee being trained stating that he or she is comfortable completing the associated task, and one signature from a knowledgeable observer stating that he or she watched the employee complete the task safely and by the book.

Depending on the platform, include simple multiple-choice quizzes to ensure that the employee understands the details of the task they are completing. For example, if the training is being verified for a task like changing a tire, a good quiz question would be to ask what the torque should be for the lug nuts.

The observations should be done as the employee goes about their normal work duties. In other words, the tasks shouldn’t be staged just for the sake of an observation. For example, if the task is inspecting a piece of mobile equipment, the employee should be observed while he or she is inspecting the mobile equipment as part of their normal duties. This way the task is taking place in a real work environment, and production on the project is not impacted.

This training verification produces a large amount of data that needs to be tracked and organized. Using paper for this process is difficult and time-consuming because it requires completed paperwork to be scanned and sent into an office where it then has to be manually uploaded into individual employee training files.

But, if you are using an app as your platform, they often have an automated system that collects the completed data and puts it in the correct employee file. Many apps allow the creation of training matrices that will let you easily see who is trained and on what.

Create a Career Advancement System

Once the training verification system is up and running, you can begin working on the final step in this process—and it’s what can really change the core culture of the company—creating a career advancement system.

One of the most common complaints I used to hear was from employees saying that they had been with a certain company for several years and never knew where they were in their career and if they would ever get the chance to move up. A career advancement system will put an employee’s career in their own hands and let them see where they stand in the company.

To create this program, first work with management to identify the different job titles (driller, pump operator, helper, etc.) that are in your company and what tasks their managers expect them to know for each job.

Typically, there are two dozen or more tasks for each job. Once the employee is signed off on all the tasks for their job and has completed any required additional training classes, they are eligible for a promotion. This system works well when combined with automatic pay increases when a level is completed.


Quality training is something that will not only make your employees safer but also more productive. Building one requires a lot of time and money and the company working together to ensure that the foundation (written procedures) is as solid as possible.

Once the foundation is laid and the training system is built and rolled out, you can add on a verification system to keep track of who has been trained and who needs training.

The last step is to build a career advancement system that will tie it all together. With this system in place, you will have employees who are incentivized to learn new tasks and with the opportunity to get real certifications and gain useful knowledge.

Once this happens, you will have employees thinking in terms of making a career at your company, and not just holding down another job.

Addressing the Training Issue
NGWA is helping train the industry with its online platform, Drilling Basics Online. Click here to learn more.
Watch to Learn
The author shares information his company typically provides to new hires during orientation on fatigue management, driver safety, and mental health. Click here to watch the NGWA: Industry Connected video.

John Fowler, CSP, CMSP, has been in the drilling industry for more than 20 years, working on projects ranging from the Prudhoe Bay oilfield in Alaska to ice drilling in Greenland and at the U.S. South Pole Station in Antarctica. For the past 12 years, Fowler has been working as a safety manager for a large mineral exploration drilling contractor. He served on and chaired NGWA’s Safety Task Force and is a regular safety workshop presenter at Groundwater Week. He can be reached at john.m.fowler@gmail.com.