BOX 5-1 Important Points Made by the Speakers
• Many people in the Gulf region have a resiliency borne of past disasters that can be tapped.
• Stackable credentials available to high school and college students allow them to build their own educational pathways.
• There is a need for more real-time data on workforce and skill demands to enable increased responsiveness on the part of education and training programs.
• If companies applied lessons from their supply chains to human capital, they could build highly effective talent supply chains around targeted occupational areas.
• A combined degree in applied drilling and environmental technology could help meet the needs of the oil and gas industry as it continues to expand and become more technologically advanced.
In the final panel of the workshop, four presenters examined ways of meeting the needs and building the necessary skills identified by earlier panels and discussions. The presenters also discussed with workshop participants several critical issues in workforce development, including the greatest obstacles that have to be overcome, the role of apprenticeships and internships, and gender issues.
When the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded and sank in 2010, Chip Hughes, director of the Worker Education and Training Program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, was part of the federal response. The first thing that had to be done, he said, was to create a clean-up army that eventually encompassed 150,000 people. This presented a number of immediate questions: “How do you develop curricula? How do you develop evaluation processes? How do you develop an infrastructure to capture all that training? How do you integrate with the work process that the training is designed to improve?”
Over the course of two days, the organizers of the clean-up drew on their experiences with previous disasters to arrive at answers to these questions. Much has been learned in recent years about dealing with disasters, Hughes said. For example, he briefly described the “safety culture” that has developed and has changed how individuals, organizations, communities, and entire regions respond to disasters. These cultures can differ between, say, government and the private sector, but in the Gulf, these groups had to work as partners in a unified command.
The responders developed curricula for health and safety courses of various lengths, from two hours to sixteen hours and more. People were being trained to do jobs that they do not do normally, which is what usually happens with disasters, according to Hughes. With the Gulf oil spill, fishermen were running booms to skim oil off the water, and teenagers from New Orleans were on the beach picking up tar balls. “There was a transformation of the region, in a sense, about what it is that people had to do.”
This process was not without glitches. For example, at one point a corporate representative insisted that people hired to do the clean-up all speak English, but this was going to be impossible in southern Louisiana, with its Vietnamese, Cajun, and other ethnic populations. The situation was resolved in part by developing training programs in different languages. “When we think about education and training in the Gulf, we [need to] think about where the place is and who the people are,” said Hughes.
Since then, a large-scale study has been ongoing of 35,000 people who were part of the clean-up process. “Disasters never end, in a sense,” said Hughes. “They continue to be part of the community and part of people’s experience.” The study has demonstrated, Hughes said, that “people in the Gulf—and particularly on the bayou—are experts at resilience.” One lesson derived from the 9/11 attacks was that people who have training in knowing how to understand traumatic situations and how to handle them have a much greater capacity to recover from those events than others. Many people in the Gulf region went through Hurricane Katrina and hold those experiences close to their hearts. That resiliency is a palpable force in the region that can be tapped, said Hughes.
The country has much to learn from the disasters that have affected the Gulf region, Hughes concluded. These communities are learning how to protect themselves not only from short-term disasters but from the longer term threats such as climate change. They are demonstrating the importance of preserving a culture, families, and communities.
The Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program at the National Science Foundation (NSF) is a workforce program focused on technical education and training at community colleges. It typically includes general education courses, basic technology courses, and a second year of hands-on training in a particular area. In Florida, for example, the program includes a focus on advanced manufacturing, said Marilyn Barger, principal investigator and executive director of the Florida Regional Center of Advanced Technological Education (FLATE) at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, but it also includes nanotechnology, biotechnology, environmental sciences, precision agriculture, photonics, and “anything you would call an advanced or emerging technology.”
The program recruits students right out of high school as well as nontraditional students coming back to college or going to college for the first time. It is designed to build a workforce for middle-skilled jobs and provide professional development for the educators who are teaching in these areas. It—and other federal programs for community college—are also designed to provide “stackable credentials” that students can use to build their own educational pathways. Students can continue to earn academic credentials while not having to relearn what they have already learned in a training program. “It is providing opportunities for growth for the workforce in all of these middle-skilled job areas,” Barger said.
In Florida the program has been implemented in 14 of the 20 colleges that offer technical programs related to manufacturing. This implementation has been done in partnership with the Florida Department of Education to build a strong common program that allows flexibility for the colleges. Articulation pathways are included through nationally recognized industry credentials that students can use for college credit, which means that students can be on an accelerated path to a two-year degree.
Currently the state is working with colleges to refine those programs, adding more colleges to support industry, and working with high schools as partners. High schools in Florida also have career and technical education programs that are an important component of their educational pathways. These programs provide not only an accelerated pathway for high school students but a pathway for workers to get a credential and move into a college program to continue their education and training.
Finally, said Barger, a critical aspect of the programs is that they are industry driven. “Industry plays a huge role for us. We have several advisory committees… that help us with developing the curriculum and, in some cases, delivering some of the curricula that we have developed.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been looking for more effective ways to close the skills gap, said Jason Tyszko, senior director of education and workforce policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. This gap has been growing since the 1980s and will amount to more than five million job positions by the year 2020. “That is putting us at a huge competitive disadvantage in the global economy,” he said.
Meanwhile, according to Tyszko:
- The graduation rate for high school remains about 80 percent.
- Of high school graduates seeking a secondary education, more than 60 percent are not ready to take credit-bearing courses and require remediation.
- For college students seeking a four-year degree, only about half succeed within six years.
- At community colleges, the graduation rate is about 30 percent within three years.
- Low-income students trying to get an associate’s degree at a community college who need remedial classes have only about a 10 percent change of graduating.
According to Tyszko, the growing need for skilled labor is holding companies back in their ability to grow and compete, and the educational system is failing to produce students with the skills that are needed.
The educational system has systemic problems, but employers could improve the situation as well, Tyszko observed. An especially promising approach is what he called talent pipeline management. Over the past 20 years, employers have become very effective at supply chain management. They anticipate demand, procure supplies, and fulfill orders. Furthermore, they generate and share data on performance to get better. “It is something they need to do in order to compete effectively.”
Institutions need to become much more sophisticated in how they signal demand in the marketplace at every step of the educational and employment process, he observed. “We have to stop this bullwhip effect that keeps happening with surplus and shortage within our labor market. The only way to do that is to constantly be revisiting what those numbers are.” Just as employers are good at predicting sales, they need to become good at projecting human capital needs. “We need to think through, systemically, what are those new communication mechanisms that are going to manage that dialogue. If we just revisit it through a report every few years, we are going to be behind the curve. We are not going to be able to keep up with the changes that are happening inside the marketplace.”
Employers need to start thinking about their human capital much like they think about their supply chains, Tyszko said. This entails more than getting people together to talk or setting up advisory boards. “This invites us to think through a paradigm shift in relationships and how those relationships are managed in the long-term.”
Important metrics for an employer include how long it takes to fill a position, how long it takes for an employee to become fully productive, and first-year turnover rates. “These are all things that drive costs on the side of the employer.” Focusing on issues such as these sets up a very different relationship with educational institutions and employees and a different accountability system.
As an example, Tyszko cited the Boeing Corporation, which has been interested in increasing the number and the quality of its engineering candidates. The company realized that it was recruiting people in the spot market,1 which was a high-cost process in which many people did not work out. Instead, it identified the handful of educational institutions from which a majority of its A-list candidates were coming. The company then went to these institutions and said that it would give them a competitive preference in delivering engineering candidates if they would have a functional relationship with the company. “We need to be inside your curriculum, inside your classrooms, inside your assessments,” Tyszko said. “We need to be communicating in real time the leading characteristics that lead to successful transitions, whether it is a combination of certifications, employability skills, technical skills, or culture fit.” Instead of investing more broadly in STEM education, the company targeted its investment portfolio in a more strategic way, such as through internships for students and supported faculty. The result was a highly effective talent supply chain in which performance was constantly managed.
This is “an exciting and compelling story,” said Tyszko, and it can be repeated in health care, information technologies, and other sectors. The same approach could be used in the Gulf to construct highly effective talent supply chains around targeted occupational areas.
A.J. Guiteau, a workforce training and development specialist for the offshore industry refers to the crew of a drilling rig as an industrial fraternity. They are working on a floating factory that is potentially a high-risk environment, he said. “My life depends on you as it depends on everybody else in that team.” This interdependence creates tight bonds among the workers on a rig. “In 40 years in the drilling business, I have never met anybody, manufacturers or retailers, who know as much about their fellow workers, who are as closely knitted, as people in drilling rigs. That is because they realize where they are.”
The sophistication required of workers on new electronic rigs is demanding. Instead of four people on the drill floor combining lengths of pipe to put into the ground, a single worker in a chair is lowering the pipe through a series of electronic screens. But the electronic control of that sequence consists of more than 300 menu selections, said Guiteau. Such employees must know how to drill a well while also being “electronically sensitive.” Employees are well compensated. An electrician working offshore on a traditional rig with 10 percent overtime makes $135,000 working six months on and six months off. An electronics technician makes $165,000. A driller on a traditional rig makes $170,000. An electronic driller makes $190,000.
Guiteau, who has been involved with training people for the oil and gas industry for 40 years, described some of the lessons he has learned over that time. First, drilling contractors tend not to trust colleges. The industry spends a lot of money on equipment, and it needs help to ensure that this equipment is run proper-
1A spot market is a market in which commodities are traded for immediate delivery.
ly. It also needs thousands of new employees to run the new cyber drilling rigs that are being developed. But colleges tend to be more interested in academics than in understanding exactly what industry needs, he said. The academic community could work to communicate better with industry, so there could be a better match between educational programs and industry needs.
A drilling rig has three interrelated workforces−the drilling crew, the marine crew that handles the floating of the vessel, and the maintenance crew that handles equipment. Some of the marine crew and equipment crew may have college degrees, but the drilling crew is likely to have none. Yet even roustabouts need to understand hydrostatic pressure, need to know how to calculate volumes, and need other basic scientific understanding. The ones who can apply those skills can work their way up a career path that leads all the way to offshore installation manager. At that point, said Guiteau, “somebody from the non-degreed side of the world is going to be running a billion-dollar piece of equipment.”
Different kinds of certificates and degrees can be important, but Guiteau emphasized the emotional side of drilling work. “It gets in your blood,” he said. Drilling for oil and gas is basically exploration. “There are so many scientific challenges to go to the bottom of the ocean,” he said. “It is like going to Mars. Science is at the very center of the future of the new crew change for the drilling industry.”
New money would make it possible to get certificate programs into place. More people with associate’s degrees are also needed, though getting people in these degree programs into industrial facilities is very expensive. Guiteau pointed to the need for a combined degree in applied drilling and environmental technology. “Those two worlds must come together if we are going to be successful in drilling,” he said.
The National Academy of Sciences is largely free of the politics that can slow progress elsewhere, he concluded. The NAS could start a worldwide, international center that could combine science and environmental studies for an oil and gas industry that is going to keep growing.
A major focus during the discussion sessions was how educational institutions and companies could work together in ways that are mutually beneficial. Tyszko described the merits of a system in which educational institutions are able to tell potential students what the outcomes of an education at that institution are likely to be−where is a graduate likely to be hired, how much will he or she be paid, and how long is a new hire likely to stay with a company.
This is an area in which community colleges can excel, said Guiteau. They can conduct some of the training that traditionally has been done by an employer. When a graduate from such a program applies for a job and has six or seven of the prerequisites that a company is looking for, that person is not considered untrained. Rather, the graduate of that program already has invested in the training process.
As Lichtveld pointed out, all parties in an educational partnership need to grow toward the middle, including industry. This includes “knowing what the requirement is in the industry and knowing what the requirement is in education.” If all of the parties could talk together and establish what students need to know, the partners could reach for bold solutions rather than doing things the same way they have been done in the past.
“The planets are aligning,” said Guiteau, because of the number of people the oil and gas industry needs. The challenge is to create a partnership that serves the needs of all the partners, rather than just one particular group. Academia and industry are working well together in some places, such as Tulane University and Nicholls State University, he said.
When the panelists were asked during the discussion session about the biggest obstacle that needs to be overcome to build capacity in the region’s middle-skilled workforce, Hughes answered “trust.” People need to feel that they are joining an effort from which everyone will benefit.
Tyszko pointed to the need for a shared data infrastructure. The task is complicated by the fact that each state has a different system and employers hold that information closely. “You have five states. You have five different finance systems. You have five different governance systems. You have five different accountability systems… Now is the time to break those regions down and understand the dynamics that are taking place in each state.” Langhinrichsen-Rohling responded that this is happening in particular areas. For example, the Gulf Region Health Outreach Program is a multistate collaborative effort related to the oil spill that works across states to capture information about health, environmental literacy, and other important issues. In addition, she said, changes going on in health care, such as the movement toward electronic health records, will produce a tremendous amount of new data, though accessing these data will be “a very complicated task.”
Barger noted that educational systems are bounded by borders for service areas while companies typically are not. This adds to the problem of data sharing, she said. She added that educational institutions need to identify skill sets, she said, and make sure that their students are aware of the variety of opportunities they have with the skills they are obtaining. Hughes also referred to the need for educational programs to facilitate the transfer of information from older workers to younger workers.
Guiteau returned to the issue of how to form meaningful relationships. He believes academic institutions should be more willing to ask “What can I do for you? We hear you really need people badly. What are you looking for?” Some of the drilling companies could provide educational institutions with lists of ten critical skills they need in applications, although others are still struggling with this. This approach would require changes in human resource departments, he added, which for the most part are still simply filling positions without thinking deeply about what a company needs both now and in the future. But other countries have demonstrated that it is possible to combine education and training in programs that produce highly skilled graduates and employees.
A topic that arose several times during the workshop was the potential of apprenticeships and internships to develop both immediately needed and long-term skills in potential employees. For example, Barnes pointed to the importance of apprenticeships, internships, and mentoring in building skills. To understand that tires need to be put back on a car correctly every time, young employees need to work next to experienced mentors who understand the need to do things right. “Industry has to be engaged. It cannot be squarely on the shoulders of the educational institutions,” Barnes said.
Jay Love, Finance Chairman for the Business Education Alliance of Alabama, proposed expanding career technical and dual-enrollment offerings between high school students and two-year junior colleges, as is being done in Alabama. Industry also can support apprenticeships or co-ops, though, as Richard Gilbert, a Principal Investigator with the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center, said, this may not work in Florida, which is a free labor state.
Several speakers noted that the number of apprenticeships in the oil and gas industry is much reduced from what it has been in the past, partly because these programs are expensive. Yet employers are still asking for what is broadly termed pre-employment experiences before new employees are hired, noted Kathy Thompson, Dean of Technical Education and Workforce Development at Bishop State College.
Langhinrichsen-Rohling observed that internships can eat up a lot of educational time in travel, whereas bringing the content into the curriculum of a high school gets more uptake because students can do their work there. “Building a culinary school or a hands-on laboratory where industry partners bring their training into the already existing educational environment works better than outsourcing,” she said.
In response to a question about females entering the oil and gas industry, Guiteau pointed to women who are serving on rigs. Some work as electricians, and more as electronic technicians, but fewer do mechanical work.
Tyszko observed that hope is not a strategy for increasing diversity, including the number of women in the industry. Instead, employers need to get inside the talent supply chain and work at the point of recruitment. If employers knew who was in the talent supply chain, they would not need to wait for those people to show up in the spot market. “Those HR departments have to get inside that operation. They have to talk to each other. We can’t afford for them not to.”
Bob Duce, the workshop’s chair, thanked participants for their insightful and important comments. The workshop on education and training, when combined with forthcoming workshops on environmental monitoring and community resilience and health, will provide the Gulf Research Program and its advisory board with valuable ideas and suggestions for the development of the program.
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