Saudi Aramco’s industrial workforce – its operators, welders, machinists and electricians, as well as a dozen other occupations – is the heart of its success, said Mohammed Omair, vice president of Refining and NGL Fractionation.
The company’s Downstream organization is faced with the one-two punch of an aging workforce – up to 50 percent of Downstream’s industrial workforce will change in the next few years – and rapid job growth brought on by changes in technology and company initiatives such as the chemicals business, new refineries and an expanding international presence.
In 2009, Downstream developed a strategy for meeting its need for industrial talent. Currently 3,000 industrial workforce members, including those in Downstream and domestic joint ventures such as SATORP, SADARA and YASREF, are at various stages in their two to three years of training, including apprentices and new trainees.
That number is not expected to drop over the next few years, said Omair. "An active recruitment program has been seeking out and identifying potential candidates from all over the Kingdom," he added.
It is a monumental undertaking and one which provides a major challenge to Downstream’s apprenticeship and new employee training programs.
Apprentices undergo a minimum of 18 months of training. They are given 50 hours of safety training, said Richard Weidel, Downstream safety coordinator. "We want them to come on the job knowing how to be safe and treat the equipment safely." If successful in completing training, apprentices are hired into the industrial workforce.
All apprentices go through a detailed on-the-job-training (OJT) program that is based on specific training for a specific plant and piece of equipment, and supported with documented procedures extracted from operating instruction manual. This OJT program is critical to providing young workers with real operation practices to conduct safe operation.
Other training plans include providing Refining and NGLF plant specific simulators for each organization, customized to operate based on specific process flow diagrams. The simulators give users as close to a real experience as can be achieved, and in an area where experience is a significant productivity multiplier. Training simulators allow for hands-on scenario based training that teaches operators how to deal with normal and emergency situations without compromising the actual plant, worker safety or the environment.
"The sheer number of people we’ll be training in a relatively short period of time is staggering," said Omair. "Getting it right is going to be one of the great challenges facing the company and our new industrial workforce."
(Article by David Tschanz)