In Mexico, a new standard for training Jenni-LEWIS

We don’t just adopt the highest standards; we help create them in each market by working hand in hand with clients and industry bodies.

Jenni LEWIS Managing Director RELYON NUTEC

In Mexico, a new standard for oil and gas training

November 8, 2022

Jenni Lewis, managing director of RelyOn Nutec, talks to The Energy Year about the company’s value proposition and current expansion in the Mexican market and how it is diversifying into key sectors such as renewables. RelyOn Nutec provides accredited training for the oil and gas sector.

What kind of value has RelyOn Nutec brought to the Mexican market?
We are present in 20 countries; we have more than 30 training centres around the world. While we do have regional variances based on local laws and regulations, our goal is that all students receive top standards in oil and gas training.
We partner with all accreditation bodies such as OPITO, the International Association of Drilling Contractors, STCW [International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers] and the Global Wind Organisation. We don’t just adopt the highest standards; we help create them in each market by working hand in hand with clients and industry bodies.
In the early days, there was no strong nationalisation scheme in Mexican projects and time was needed to bring the local workforce up to standard. People travelling in and out of the country were still able to get the training in the country, which was key to our success.
Mexico is a very important market in our portfolio. Mexico has grown from being one of our smallest markets in size, performance, revenue and student numbers to become one of our fastest-growing markets. We have quadrupled our growth since 2013 and believe there will be continued need going forward. Unfortunately, the pandemic delayed some of our planned capital projects and investments.
We continue to make a strong commitment to our new training centre in Tampico, which opened in early September. This venture represents our commitment to the Mexican market to ensure there is a workforce in place that meets the demands of the industry.
In terms of training, we put individuals in worst-case scenarios. For example, we crash our helicopter simulators in a pool, spin them around and teach them how to get out safely. We create fires in controlled environments so workers get a déjà vu factor and know how to react. Most importantly, we make sure our trainees understand safety issues and know how to prevent them by understanding consequences.
Our drilling simulation training is another key element in our training. Before one drills a well, we can put the entire well plan into the system so we can drill the well completely on the simulator. In this way, one can encounter every emergency that could possibly happen. This will be a key element in training for all the new production expected in the country.

What efforts has the company made in raising standards in Mexico’s oil and gas sector?
The safety culture in Mexico has remained in line with standards set long ago in the country. When we brought in new standards just before the energy reform was launched in 2013, we thought they would be embraced with open arms. However, this was not the case because they were not required. In oil and gas, 80% of what one does is compliance based.
We did proactive work in terms of talking to local operators, supply chains and service companies to help them understand the need for higher standards but were met with some resistance. With the entrance of more IOCs, local services companies started winning contracts and became more familiar with international standards required by foreign firms and began adopting them.

What differences are there for standards required by Pemex and IOCs in Mexico?
Pemex has high standards and their own approved courses, which we run. Many contractors have completed these courses but need to return for additional training when working on a project with IOCs or international service companies. Standards are different for the Mexican NOC than for IOCs, and we see huge opportunities in bridging these sets of standards.
There may not be one sole acceptable standard, but equivalencies can be created between requirements that enable a set of training that covers both sets. There needs to be greater synergies between these standards. We are now working hand in hand with Pemex and have a set of more than 20 courses they take part in. We are working to try to digitise our offerings as much as possible and combine them with practical exercises at our centres.


How have recent advances changed the company’s training strategies?
Based on our investment portfolio over the last few years, we have shifted towards the use of digital technologies, whether it is through digital content being deployed or digital platforms used to track and report. We also have competency platforms where we track the abilities and competencies of individuals to formulate gaps.
We have also invested in the concept of adaptive learning. Oil and gas training can be very repetitive, especially in the compliance arena. It has become common practice to simply check the box in terms of training, and we want to change that. In the case of a person from another industry with high-standard practices, such as from the aviation or military sectors, we try to work on skills the individual has already acquired and reinforce possible knowledge gaps. We take a tailor-made approach to training.
A lot of what we do is driven by accrediting bodies. They give us a standard and we implement it into our curriculum. We are working with several of these bodies to look at new ways to deliver this content.
For instance, OPITO now has digital options that can be done outside of the centre. The same goes for IADC [International Association of Drilling Contractors], which has a completely virtual option with virtual instructors and cloud-based simulators. Most initial training is still classroom-based, but refresher training or long-term learning can use this adaptive learning model.

Can you give us an overview of the company’s training assets in Mexico?
We have a training centre in Ciudad del Carmen in the port. We are now in the process of expanding our operations and getting more space in the port given the uptick in activities. We are looking at adding a second story to three of the areas and more trailer classrooms in addition to the six we already have. Also, we have an MTU [mobile training unit], which is an aboveground pool. The centre was made to test the market and see if standards would be needed or wanted. We have been very reactive to what the industry requires.
The centre is usually at full capacity. There are some days we run two shifts to cover the demand, especially when new projects are coming up. We have highs and lows. A lot of the training we do – especially when you look at the larger waves – is based on new hires or new projects starting. We see major spikes in demand through crewing companies. These peaks in demand come from one day to another. Usually, training is one of the last things to come into the planning stages of a project. Calls are very short; sometimes we will have notice of two weeks or less for 200 staff to be trained.
We also focus on the redevelopment of our instructors through cross training. We see a lot of offshore requests where we fly our trainers on site. Clients sometimes value training in the actual confined space, whether it be a scaffold or forklift, rather than our training facilities.
We now have a brand-new training centre in Tampico, which is a different animal. The facility is modelled after our centre in Houston – perhaps not in size but in terms of layout and how it is operated. It is structured as a single building with a pool built in between 10 and 14 classrooms with room for growth. We are starting with a fit-for-purpose mentality. We have enough land to expand should it be required in the next 10 or 15 years as we diversify our portfolio into the downstream and renewables sectors.

What areas is RelyOn Nutec looking towards for diversification of its training curricula?
RelyOn Nutec hopes to diversify into downstream, mining and renewables. The principles of safety are the same in every industry, although how you apply them may vary.
Oil and gas production will experience an uptick from 2024-2028, but at the same time we are going to see growth on the renewables side. We believe that capital will pour into cleaner energies given the potential of the country and trend towards the energy transition. It is just a matter of time, and we want to be prepared. In the US we are seeing a lot of activity in the wind segment, which is still new to us. However, our European colleagues training us have been doing it for 10-12 years. This is one of the large advantages to having a diverse international company.

How significant is it to be the only company on the market that offers OPITO?
It is very important for us; it is a bar we want to hold ourselves to. As Mexico grows there will be others that will be certified by OPITO, but we are early investors. We will see this panorama change, especially when the year 2024 gets closer and projects begin reactivating. Manpower will start to grow and the need for training will increase. Operators – especially the NOC – will request higher standards and training courses.
By having the OPITO certification, we ensure we are held to the highest standard. In fact, we hold ourselves to an even tougher standard because we are the only ones and we are thus our own competition. We are always pushing the boundary to see what we can do better, increasing quality and making training more realistic. We put a lot of time and investment into ensuring we achieve these goals.

What are the company’s immediate priorities in Mexico?
We want to stay on our path of success in Mexico. Our most important priority is to maintain the trust we have built with our clients and partners. Our second priority is opening the Tampico training centre. Extending what we have done well in Ciudad del Carmen in Tampico is key for us. We have begun hiring instructors and they are already working to be ready when the centre opens. We are focusing on internal development and are implementing in-country cross training.
Another area of focus is diversification. We want to remain relevant through digital content theory or adaptive learning as we cross industries from oil and gas into renewables. We need to be ready when standards increase or new ones come in, particularly for new sectors such as solar and wind.

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