Thomas Kwader looks at the pros and cons of making continuing education mandatory.

Continuing education has several obvious benefits, but making it compulsory creates some problems. Courtesy of Principia College.
Continuing education, or continuing education units (CEUs), is a hot topic in many areas of the United States and in many professions. For those of you who don't know, many states are requiring individuals of certain professions to further their education in their chosen field by attending classes, workshops, tradeshows, seminars, and by reading books, viewing video tapes, etc.

I have very mixed feelings on the subject. Having attended a number of classes and having taught classes at the university level, formal education has enabled me to excel in my field, improve my degree of professionalism and enjoy a better quality of life. Even after approaching 50 years on this planet, I still attend numerous classes, annual trade shows, professional society activities and teach classes every year. I'm not convinced that we should force people to "better" themselves. Most people have gotten where they are in life by their own choosing and have done quite well without government intervention. In some ways, continuing education is self-regulating. For example, if we don't maintain our vehicles (say change the oil), they will eventually quit running, be expensive to maintain and be discarded (out of business) before their time.

Another good example would be comparing accounting systems. It is unlikely that a business can grow from a small to even a medium size without having a fairly sophisticated computerized system for tracking, billing, inventory, personnel records, etc. Many older drillers have had to upgrade to the "computer age" to stay competitive. If your competitor is learning all the new tricks of the trade, most likely he/she will have a competitive edge. In other words, we all need to keep learning how to survive in this competitive world, but should we be made to do it?

Continuing education is a means by which we could all benefit by keeping up with the rapid changes in the environmental drilling business, regulations, and for health and safety issues. Some of these topics have a direct bearing on protecting the environment and human health, which is a good reason we all should stay current with the information in our respective professions.

One of the biggest problems with mandatory continuing education is equitable enforcement of the program. Are we punishing the good drillers by having them spend the time and money to comply with requirements while the same old "renegade" drillers, who truly need to be educated, duck the program and there is no punishment for non-compliance? If a state adopts a continuing education program, then there must be "teeth" in the requirements such as not renewing drillers' licenses if the requirements are not met. This is very difficult to enforce because it is extremely harsh to take away a person's means for making a living. What do you think?