Technologically enhanced training TEY_post_Faisal_Al_Daihani

There is currently a golden opportunity for any company to train their employees within Saudi Arabia.


Technologically enhanced training

May 25, 2023

Faisal Al Daihani, managing director of Saudi Arabian Drilling Academy (SADA), talks to The Energy Year about the academy’s value proposition for the upstream sector and its use of the best training technologies to enhance the learning journey in line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. SADA is a vocational college providing training for the drilling industry and upstream sector in general.

What is SADA’s value proposition for the upstream sector?
SADA is a technical training academy offering apprenticeship diploma programmes and is set up as a training hub for the drilling industry. It is a non-profit organisation that was founded in 2016 by Saudi Aramco, along with industry stakeholder companies who are obliged to hire as per their manpower needs in Saudi Arabia and sponsor selected trainees for the diploma programme offered by SADA. The size of SADA’s campus is 72,000 square metres, which includes two training wells, one for drilling operations with a land rig and the second well with a wellhead and Christmas tree for well service hands-on training.
Additionally, the campus includes a number of workshops, state-of-the-art well control simulators, computer labs, an auditorium and smart classrooms with a capacity to accommodate more than 1,000 trainees at any given time. SADA’s strategic goal is to provide globally competitive drilling and workover professionals for the upstream sector who are academically and professionally competent, with the capability to progress successfully in this lifelong career.
SADA’s training programmes have been designed to prepare high school graduates for career-oriented entry-level jobs with SADA stakeholders. However, the academy wants the trainees to have a career progression that enables them to climb up the ladder, not only in Saudi Arabia, but globally. For example, when a trainee graduates as a rigman, SADA’s ambition is that, within three years, the graduate can serve as a derrickman and then as an assistant driller.
Ideally, SADA graduates will enjoy an advanced progression to driller or toolpusher. SADA produces trainees that can fit the needs of a constantly shifting profession so that trainees invest in careers rather than simply hold jobs.

How is the Saudi government encouraging companies to train their staff in the country?
The Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) has been supporting companies financially by paying half of the tuition fee and a part of each trainee’s salary, which is a huge motivation for stakeholders sponsoring companies to continue their support for the development of the Saudi workforce. This is a golden opportunity for any company to train their employees within Saudi Arabia.
This is to ensure that youth obtain vocational qualifications and can immediately support the needs of the market. When SADA trainees graduate, they are ready to start contributing to the operations of the sponsored company. By contrast, a graduate of a bachelor’s programme will require extra years of formation to work in the oil and gas industry.
The results of Vision 2030s support for vocational training are very clear. It aims to have more graduates coming from vocational colleges and provide them with the necessary skills needed to support the country’s sustainable development. It is worth knowing that, according to the Global Knowledge Index, the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) of Saudi Arabia ranked ninth globally in 2021. It was ranked 12th in 2020, 86th in 2019, and 117th in 2018.

What is your strategy in terms of international accreditations?
Saudi Arabia has been working on its Vision 2030 with a very ambitious human resource policy. It’s centred around qualifying highly skilled workers by incorporating advanced technology that follows international standards to meet the upstream oil and gas sector’s demands.
To fulfil this mandate, SADA must achieve several milestones. The academy must be ranked internationally and provide an educational standard that matches the quality demanded by the market.
SADA is proud to have received local and global accreditations, including those from ACCET [Accrediting Council for Continuing Education & Training], OPITO [Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organization], IADC [International Association of Drilling Contractors], and ISO [International Organization for Standardization] (i.e. ISO-9001-2015) as global accreditations and the King Abdulaziz Quality Awards (KAQA), ETEC [Education and Training Evaluation Commission] and MASAR [National Center for Training Assessment and Accreditation] as local recognitions.
By comparison, many organisations that have been in business for many years haven’t achieved some of these accreditations. This is only possible because SADA has a dedicated, competent workforce with full ownership of their academy, planning and executing effectively in alignment with its vision and mission while keeping stakeholders engaged to mutually agree on future courses of action.


How do you ensure the academy selects the best training technologies?
Technology is one of the main drivers for the ensuring transfer of knowledge in a fast and effective way. To ensure that the correct technological solutions are in place, SADA has an eLearning and Training Resources Unit that is responsible for searching, updating and implementing relevant and modern technological solutions.
SADA reviews and benchmarks with different corporate organisations as well as educational institutions to ensure the intended technology is right for the academy. Just to mention a few, SADA has been effectively using drilling and well control simulators, portable simulators offering real-time training for a range of well intervention operations, a firefighting simulator and integrated virtual reality (IVR) training simulators.
A rule of thumb for incorporating effective technology solutions is normally to look for the same technology that is already being used in oil and gas companies. For example, acquiring simulators from global training solution providers, such as the Drilling Systems’ DrillSIM:5000, which has been used by industry players to assess their employees’ progression and future development.
Similarly, SADA has acquired a Drilling Systems’ MultiSIM simulator, which is a portable simulator, to provide well intervention training for new and experienced trainees. Coiled tubing and wireline simulator training units will soon be part of the academy’s learning solutions. Simulators are the best way to ensure your training environment is safe and realistic, so when SADA trainees graduate, they ensure safety is always the priority.
SADA has been using the Smart Learning Environment (SLE) to minimise the use of paper and to provide flexibility and effectiveness in the learning process, along with the accessibility for trainees to use them anywhere. We keep track of behavioural changes in young trainees to ensure continuous improvement in the training delivery and assessment process. Also, it is a sustainable solution to better support our environment and the planet.

How does SADA stay updated with the latest drilling innovations?
It’s essential for the Academy to stay updated on the latest techniques and technologies to meet the highest expectations of its stakeholders. SADA constantly works with its stakeholders very closely, and stakeholders visit the campus on a regular basis to suggest ideas.
Oil and gas is a very dynamic sector in which new ideas are always emerging. To ensure that the curriculum matches the market’s demands, SADA has a technical advisory committee with represented employees of international oil companies who share the latest innovations in the field to be incorporated into SADA curriculums. SADA actively participates in various research and development conferences at the trainee and staff level to learn about current industry trends and find out about future developmental opportunities.

What is SADA’s candidate selection process like?
SADA has a very strict selection and admission system that filters people from the application phase down to the internship phase. When SADA opens admissions, there are over 25,000 applications received on a yearly basis, out of which only 400-500 candidates have been accepted that meet the selection criteria. Only those who are best qualified are accepted. During the selection process, candidates are tested for their behavioural, English language, social and communication skills to ensure talented candidates are selected. Once the SADA Admission Unit filters potential candidates, stakeholder companies perform their hiring process to select the right employee for their company to be sent to SADA for an apprenticeship.
Once candidates are accepted, they go through an induction programme followed by the academic training phase, which includes general and functional (oil-and-gas-oriented) English lessons. Mathematics, science and IT lessons are also given for a duration of one year. As a second phase of training, the fundamentals of drilling operations are taught for a 13-week duration. As a third and final phase of training, trainees are separated into well service operators and drilling operators for specialised training for a duration of 26 weeks, followed by the internship programme as part of the on-the-job training.

What kind of collaboration do you have with training companies?
SADA has partnered with TÜV Rheinland for academic and technical skill development. TÜV Rheinland is a well-known international company that provides training delivery services along with teaching resources, such as instructors and other administrative support.
We have many other partnerships with global and local training companies to ensure the best teaching resources are available within the academy.

How are you planning to increase SADA’s regional footprint?
SADA aims to have international, full-time trainees as part of the trainee exchange programme. SADA management has been evaluating and looking forward to opening more branches, as the demand for drilling and well services training is increasing. The number of rigs in the region is expected to rise exponentially, and a workforce is needed to run them. The aim is to initially open doors to students from GCC countries.
SADA is committed to developing certification programmes related mostly to safety standards, which will help us create a strong brand name in the drilling sector.

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