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North American Oil & Gas Pipelines | By: Gill Grady, Sr. Vice President, GSE Systems

The Case for Simulation-Based Training and the Benefits of a Blended Approach

The need for efficient and effective workforce training is acute. The oil and gas industry, upstream through downstream, faces a critical shortage of competent workers as baby boomers retire and fewer new, competent workers replace them.

Recent research shows just how critical training is. Los Angeles Research Group and IBISWorld estimated oil and gas pipeline construction employment at about 1.2 million in 2011 and 152,000 in 2012, a drop of more than 1 million employees. At the same time, pipeline construction spending is expected to increase by 12 percent over the next five years compared to the last five, according to Douglas-Westwood, a UK-based market research and consulting firm for the energy industry.

“Despite a trickle of young employees entering the field, there is simply not enough talent in the current pipeline to replace the leadership positions that will open up as older employees retire,” adds Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith at DownstreamToday.com, an online news website covering the downstream oil and gas sector. “Further, with U.S. universities producing only 20 percent of the engineering graduates they did 20 years ago, there are not enough qualified candidates to fill these positions vacated by retiring baby boomers.”

In addition to retraining older workers, it is imperative to train new hires quickly and effectively to prepare them to step quickly into highly responsible roles with little or no drop-off in workforce capabilities.

Simulation-based training, particularly computer-based training prefaced by appropriate classroom training, is the fastest, most efficient and most effective way to prepare field operators, operations technicians and maintenance personnel for work on the line. Workers who have been trained via simulation may make fewer mistakes, recognize potential problems earlier, and have the skills and experience to best respond to a given situation, thus reducing the likelihood of accidents.

The Market

Visiongain, a London-based business information provider, calculated the global oil and gas simulation and virtual reality market to be worth $2.243 billion in 2011. All accounts project the market to grow steadily during the next decade. North America is the leading geographic market for oil and gas virtual reality training and simulation.

The “International Energy Outlook 2011,” produced by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), predicts global consumption of oil and other liquid fuels will rise to 112.2 million barrels per day in 2035, from 85.7 million barrels per day in 2008, an increase of 30.9 percent. “Estimates are that the U.S. and Canada will need roughly 30,000 to 60,000 additional miles of natural gas pipeline though 2030,” as reported in the North American Oil & Gas Pipelines February 2013 cover story, “The Natural Gas Revolution.”

How We Learn

People learn in many different ways. Many are visual learners, some are auditory learners, while others are sensory or kinesthetic learners. A body of research shows that for higher-order skills, multiple modes of learning are more effective than traditional learning. More importantly, interactive multimodal learning — including simulations, modeling and “real-world experiences” — is more effective than non-interactive multimodal learning, such as text with graphics, animation, etc. Specifically, multiple studies showed that for higher-order skills, interactive multimodal learning resulted in a 12 percentile increase in effectiveness compared to non-interactive multimodal learning. Interactive, multimodal and experiential, simulator-based training is grouped among the most effective learning methods.

Jessica Trybus, game-based learning expert at the New Media Institute, says students “need effective, interactive experiences that motivate and actively engage (them) in the learning process.

“Well-designed game-based learning has several advantages over traditional experiential learning methods. It is cost-effective and low-risk, unlike, for example, safety training using live machinery.

“There are significant learning advantages,” Trybus adds. “Learners can reenact a precise set of circumstances multiple times, exploring the consequences of different actions. In addition, well-designed games permit learning experiences that aren’t possible in real life — for example, causing the biggest possible virtual explosion to understand why gas line disasters happen.” Read More

North-American-Pipelines
North American Oil & Gas Pipelines | By: Gill Grady, Sr. Vice President, GSE Systems
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