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A new kind of oil, gas drilling training center


​An illustration of the proposed RIG-One Safety and Skills Laboratory at Houston Community College.

Image: HCC

​​Houston Community College (HCC), San Jacinto College and Long Star College ​have embarked on a project with the oil and gas drilling industry to change the way drilling rig crews are recruited, trained and developed.

The effort is in response to industry’s call to attain new skilled workers. The industry is faced with the need to not only fill the vacant positions of retiring personnel but to also staff up and train crews for about 140 new offshore drilling rigs under construction.

“The drilling industry is faced with the challenge to bring 24,000 new hires on board within the next few years,” said Larry Dickerson, president and CEO of Diamond Offshore Drilling, which is among the drilling contractors that have worked with HCC over the past year to create a program that produces better trained employees for the drilling industry.

To that end, the college will create the Global Oil and Gas Drilling Training Center. Educators from the partnering community colleges have been working with drilling contractors on an advisory committee to set the vision and parameters of a program to achieve a better solution for what they call the "big crew change": trained, technically educated and promotable new hires.

The vision is to create a realistic drilling environment for orientation and training to produce entry-level rig crew members. HCC is preparing to build the center, which will include a rig safety and skills laboratory on its Northeast Campus. A two-week, hands-on program will provide trainees with experience in working around cranes, forklifts and air tuggers to acquire skills in safe pipe and cargo handling. Other skill areas will include material handling, tank cleaning, confined space entry, routine maintenance and hand tool skills.

The groundbreaking for the center and its RIG-One Safety and Skills Laboratory is scheduled for this fall. Initial training classes are expected to begin in the spring. The program may also eventually include advanced training in specialty skills areas such as electronics, mechanics and hydraulics or other drilling positions.