The World Resource Institute states that more than 1 billion people live in water-scarce regions, with that number projected to reach 3.5 billion within a decade. Providing water is what drives me to be in the drilling industry. What motivates you to be in the drilling industry?

As a competent drilling company, we do not see water scarcity as a crisis but as an opportunity. Our industry crisis is continuing to believe that the millennial generation is not a reliable workforce that will develop into the next generation. The reality is the millennials that wanted to work in our industry have been hired and are either successfully working or have left to make an impact elsewhere.

The irony is that the oldest of the millennials turn 38 years old this year. As an industry, we need to be focusing on Generation Z as the next generation of groundwater professionals. Recruiting Generation Zs is vital because they will be middle age when the global water crisis becomes an epidemic. The stakes have never been higher to find the right personnel and train them before the global population grows to 10.5 billion. 

Hiring the Next Generation

The solution to hiring Generation Z starts by working with millennials. No, this is not the start of a riddle. Your best recruiters are the men and women who stayed, learned and developed into today’s experienced professionals. Twenty years ago, millennials started the onboarding process with internet access only available on a PC, drove to a jobsite without GPS, and solved issues without calling the office with a cell phone. Starting without technology and adopting new technology has made these men and women your company’s most valuable recruiters and trainers. Millennials know what it’s like to push new technology and can relate to being the youngest in the company. In fact, they welcome the opportunity to be the middle-aged one, versus being called the kid.

Millennials have adopted the value of technology on the job and that has helped maximize their performance and experience. Hiring Generation Z starts with a company discussion about what worked with the last generation and discovering how to incorporate new technology with the traditional training process. Company growth depends on training and retaining young Generation Zs and your best resource is your millennials.

Teaching Generation Z

The industry-standard lecture process of uninterrupted teaching — waiting to the end of the presentation to answer all questions — fails with the next generation. Generation Z is the first full generation that has had complete access to information instantly. Consider the impact that has on their learning process. If they don’t see or hear the information puzzling them, they go searching for it themselves, even in the middle of the lecture.

They want an open forum to ask questions before moving on to the next slide, which can be difficult for an average presenter relying on rehearsed slide-to-slide content. Next, they like to be engaged with questions from the presenter that can spark discussion among the class. Finally, presentations that end with hands-on applications or problem-solving scenarios allow the students to apply what they have learned. The open forum lecture process creates stimulation for lesson retention. As an industry, we need to update our teaching methods and content if we want to recruit, excite and develop new experts faster.

Better training starts with professional development classes and field demos that teach more than just the basics. A great training program begins with fundamentals and builds into new methods and technology. As an industry, we continue to teach as if our students do not have access to a wide variety of drilling resources — from basic to complex — in print and online. Therefore 80 percent of our classes train on the fundamental basics, and we never have time to progress to advanced, modern topics. 

Beyond the basics, an excellent classroom presentation requires a lesson that incorporates all the necessary aspects of the drilling process. I accomplish this by calling on known experts in the room or encouraging students to further the discussion on the tradeshow floor with their preferred experts. Drilling is rarely successful due to great execution on just one aspect of the job; it’s successful through taking all components and combining them correctly to completion.

An excellent training series requires trainers that can incorporate all elements. When an educational topic is too broad for one trainer, it is essential to recognize that and create a collaborative lecture combining multiple speakers or trainers. A session with multiple experts allows for varying perspectives and a better learning experience. The ultimate learning experience for the next generation is one that incorporates multiple expert views and the classroom’s involvement in a community discussion.

Drilling Intensives and Training Programs

The fastest way to get men and women new to the industry up to speed is with training programs that provide classroom and practical field applications. The goal is to create valuable lessons that new hires can apply in the field. Starting at a week and expanding to a semester long, these training sessions begin with the basics and build to advanced applications. The program builds on the fundamentals with each week, ending with proficiency in specific disciplines. The best programs incorporate several drilling experts sharing their knowledge and experience with the latest technology. 

Training programs that incorporate new technology and methods are invaluable in creating new drillers and professionals capable of adopting innovation. A 21st-century drilling crew requires training beyond the traditional rotary drilling, hammers and reverse circulation. Advanced drilling courses on modern drilling methods such as sonic, dual rotary and casing advanced systems create drillers that can adapt to any drilling situation. The complexity of contemporary drilling methods requires more than one or two days to understand the basics and become proficient. 

Training programs lasting longer than a week create possibilities for multiple drilling locations. It’s essential to find a plan that covers drilling disciplines and geologies that best fit the driller’s competency. A class in Enid, Oklahoma, will create great lessons in how to drill in reactive red clays but will not give much insight into drilling hard rock for a driller seeking that experience.

Beyond drilling conditions, equipment and process are critical to a successful school. I have had the opportunity to work on programs with mud engineers, drill bit experts, solids control techs and rig manufacturers. All teachers brought a different perspective to solving drilling issues, and some of the best lessons I learned have come from this open forum. 

Creating a 21st-Century Learning Culture

The next generation of drilling students isn’t a generation at all but an ageless student with a passion for learning. If a student has a passion for the industry, they will have the drive to learn. As an industry, we must change the culture that lectures are the optimal way to pass on knowledge. All students — from Generation Z to millennials, to Generation X and even well-seasoned baby boomers — can benefit from drilling intensives. Drilling students today also have access to multiple education forums, from short sessions online, interactive courses at association shows and six-week field camps, and on up to full semesters at technical drilling schools. When we as an industry realize that becoming a 21st-century driller is about utilizing 21st-century learning methods, then we as an industry will eliminate the age gap and develop great men and women into global water experts to fight the water crisis.