Career development

On-the-Job Learning at Swift Energy: A Case Study

Swift Energy uses a training-cum-mentorship model to get new engineers up to speed, reduce nonproductive time and increase technical knowledge.

Business people

Swift Energy is an independent, US-based company engaged in the acquisition, development, exploration, and operation of oil and natural gas properties, with a focus on the onshore and inland water areas of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast.

The Vision, Mission, Values, and Behavior (VMVB) program is a training-cum-mentorship model, which has helped Swift Energy in training its young engineers, and also helped reduce nonproductive time by more than 5% and set new technical limits within one year of implementation. Both mentor and mentee share accountability in the program and have to submit periodic evaluations of each other. The incoming field engineer (mentee) does not have to report to the rig supervisor (mentor), but instead works alongside him or her as a team member. Both report to the same person, the drilling engineer. The goal is to create an environment that supports learning within the team and makes teamwork a sustainable competitive advantage.

A four-day orientation introduces the VMVB program to the incoming engineer and the rigsite supervisor. Each engineer and accompanying mentor is made aware of the seven values to which they are held: stewardship, improvement, performance, passion, integrity, trust, and teamwork. Both are required to read technical manuals, as well as recommended self-development books. The “scope of work” is defined, which requires mutual evaluation and participation in dialogue with the Houston staff.

The conventional model is that the drilling engineer plans the well and supports operations from the office. The rigsite supervisors manage rig operations, administer procedures, and coordinate all logistics, equipment, and personnel. Introducing the field engineer to his or her “role and responsibility” adds a different dimension to the project. It places a trained and disciplined mind at the rotary table, where field engineering and optimization have the best chance of affecting an operation. The different scopes of work allow for flexibility and clarity in that both the field engineer and the rig supervisor play an integral part in the operation without having to be subordinate to one another. A team is born, and it soon becomes apparent that the team members must have a close relationship as rig performance depends on both of them. The end result is that the whole operation is elevated to a higher level because each is available to teach the other.

Swift believes value is created by balancing both the roles and relationship of the supervisor and new engineer. The field engineer is able to progress by virtue of experience into a well-rounded, field-trained engineer, while at the same time the program allows the company to use the engineer’s relatively inexperienced talent in a progressive manner. An outcome of the program has been a constant flow of refined or improved drilling program designs. Since inception, the program has seen one instance where the number of drilling days was reduced from 50 to 15. A common software platform in the company also allows young engineers to study old well plans and use their learning in new wells. The VMVB program has also been successful in implementing innovative concepts within the company, such as rotary steerable drilling, batch drilling, and probabilistic cost analysis.

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