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Achievement of a lifetime

The British Drilling Association has launched its 'Driller skills for life campaign'centred around the introduction of NVQs in land drilling.BDA chairman Brian Stringer of Atlas Copco explains.

For the first time the UK drilling industry has a nationally recognised, competence-based training and qualification scheme appropriate for operators at all levels.

The British Drilling Association launched the National Vocational Qualifications Land Drilling at a series of regional evening meetings in February and March.

The scheme is aimed at all drill crew members, whether they are new starters, assistants or drill operators.

Another first is that all drilling applications - ground investigation, geotechnical processes, waterwell and mineral drilling, to name just a few - are covered.

BDA believes that the new NVQ complements rather than replaces its own Driller accreditation for ground investigation initiative, a process of assessment with annual audit and equipment inspection which it has operated for the past nine years.

This will continue and be built upon as NVQs become widely accepted, so that in future the highest industry standard is expected to be 'NVQ, BDA Accredited'. This will combine the NVQ assessment process and qualification with accreditation core principles of demonstrating ongoing competence and equipment safety status.

Within the construction industry, many trades and occupations have taken up NVQs to raise standards of workmanship and health & safety, particularly with the introduction of the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS).Major construction employers; unions and clients support CSCS cards which are linked to NVQs.

This all follows from the Government's initiative to establish a national, trained and qualified workforce. The Construction Industry Training Board and City & Guilds have been instrumental in providing NVQs for many traditional trades and in recent years have concentrated on the more specialised occupations which include tunnelling, underpinning and drilling.

For the drilling industry the introduction of NVQs provides benefits for operators, employers and clients. A major factor is that specifiers and clients can have confidence in the completely regulated and rigorous nature of NVQ assessment, which is based on national standards agreed and accredited by the Qualifications Curriculum Authority (QCA) in England & Wales. In Scotland & Northern Ireland similar processes are followed.

BDA sees the introduction of NVQs as a significant step forward. It has been involved in NVQ development for several years, examining the benefits and more recently designing the procedures and actively marketing and promoting the scheme.

What are NVQs and how do they contribute to better standards within the drilling industry and its users at large?

NVQs are nationally recognised, they have the same principles throughout all trades, and demonstrate a candidate's competence in the workplace.

Many previous qualifications only demonstrated that a training course had been completed, perhaps with a written test passed.

To obtain an NVQ the individual has to prove that they have knowledge, skill and experience through in-depth discussions, on-site visits and course work. An NVQ is not obtained overnight and even the best candidates may take six months to complete one, with an average of 12-18 months.

The value of an NVQ to an individual and an NVQ qualified workforce is clear. It enables employees to secure employment and present a competent team, while clients can take comfort from specifying a standard of competence. In short, the programme excludes 'cowboy' individuals or companies who don't commit to quality standards.

Because NVQs are firmly linked to health and safety awareness they improve safety standards.The drilling industry is not immune from accidents, sometimes fatal, and anyone who has been involved in accident inquiries will testify to the enormous amount of time, liability and personal anguish that this generates, - not to mention the increased insurance premiums.

Within drilling there has never been a recognised career and training path. The NVQ Land Drilling caters for two levels, covering three job titles. The new starter or inexperienced worker takes Level 1 (general operative) and can move on through the system to Level 2 (driller or lead driller). A more experienced worker could start at Level 2.

Recognising the need for career progression, and training at each level and between levels, BDA has launched the NVQ campaign under the title 'Driller Skills for Life'.

NVQ candidates will have access to specific training courses at the BDA's approved centre, RTD (Training & Accreditation) in Lancashire.

Nat iona l assessor qua lificat ions can be obtained at the same location.

BDA believes that high competence levels are a goal for both individuals and firms.NVQs could be the difference in winning work, working safely and securing quality product, outlawing decreasing standards, unacceptable practices and poor performance.

The majority of employees, contractors, employers and clients strive to do a good job.

Business growth depends on producing quality products and services, and these depend on people's skills and commitment.

Poor work costs money and drilling is no exception.With the introduction of NVQs, and their link to BDA Accreditation, all within the industry will benefit. This initiative should be supported by drillers, contractors, specifiers and clients alike.

Contact Brian Stringer at

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