Drillers often have to attend training and professional development to maintain licensing. Many train even when not required, so they stay informed about the latest regulations, methods and products. Given how critical training is, we wondered how best to engage students and keep their interest. After all, what good does training do if attendees just surf their phones then collect the presenter’s signature on the way out?
For tips on making training more engaging, we turned to Jeff Blinn, who served as training manager for drilling product supplier Baroid IDP for about a decade before his recent retirement. In addition, he has worked as a drilling fluids engineer and has a degree in geology. He led popular, well-attending training events for years.
Blinn worked in the industry for more than 40 years, and has experience in mineral exploration, oil and gas, hot-rock geothermal, horizontal drilling and, of course, water wells.
“You name it, I’ve probably done some of it at some point in time in my career over the last 42 or 43 years as a professional drilling fluids engineer,” he says. “But, I didn’t want to be in the field for the rest of my life.”
He wound through different jobs over the years, including sales and technical services. But he first got into training at Baroid IDP because, he says, a supervisor told him he had a knack for connecting people. He adds that he considers himself fortunate that Baroid IDP already had a solid training foundation when he took on that function.
“Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to build it from scratch,” he says. But, he says that he tried to present his trainings from a bit of a different point of view.
“Training has changed over the years from just being sitting in a chair, listening to a lecture and watching somebody in front of the class, to being more participatory, informative, fun experience. … It’s got to get their attention.”
“Things need to be presented in a way that the attendee, when he leaves, has something useful for the time he spent listening,” Blinn says. “Another bad thing is to be boring. There are a lot of very wise and intelligent people who have no business being in front of a group of people because they don’t know how to get that point across. Nobody gets any value from that.”
He cautions trainers at industry events to avoid “death by PowerPoint,” where students get subjected to over-long or over-complex presentations — complete with a view of the back of the trainer’s head as they read slides.
“I was once challenged this way: Put one slide on the screen with a picture that relates to the information that you want to give, and don’t put anything else up there. Force the audience to listen to you, the presenter, give information. Then, engage that audience. Make it interesting. They won’t be reading PowerPoint slides. They won’t be looking at their phone. They’ll be focused on you. … If every presenter thought about that a little bit, boy we’d have some great industry events, I’ll tell you that.
Blinn is bullish on how successful training can be, and about the future of some of the younger professionals he’s trained — provided they can keep their eyes on the job and off their mobile devices.
“Mr. Google does not have all of the answers,” he says. “You can find out a lot of information, but if you only rely on what you can see on that screen, you will get yourself in trouble in the drilling business. There’s much more to it. Don’t be afraid to ask experts. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Nobody knows everything.”
The Full Interview
We interviewed Jeff Blinn for our Drilling In-Site series. Our talk covered training, mud school, mentoring and other topics from his 40-plus years in the industry. See the full conversation at www.nationaldriller.com/insite, or listen to the podcast version at www.nationaldriller.com/insite-podcast.
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