The Power to Deliver

Citadel Knowledge Box

October 2, 2015

The Rig Technician Trade - developing skills in today’s drilling industry

The Rig Technician trade is an apprenticeship program that focuses on the development of workers at the Motorhand, Derrickhand and Driller levels, combining on-the-job training with classroom instruction.  For every 1500 hours of experience acquired on the job, participants must attend four weeks of classroom training. The Rig Technician apprenticeship produces skilled workers that have the competencies necessary to succeed in today’s drilling industry.

At Citadel we see tremendous value in the Rig Technician program and are committed to supporting our employees in the pursuit of their journeyman designation. Ensuring senior crew members receive the training they require, not only for their current role, but also to prepare them for advancement to the next level, is important. We firmly believe participation in the apprenticeship program is a valuable part of a Rig Technician’s development.               

Iain Nafe, Rig Manager on Citadel’s -Rig 5, The Hellcat, is a journeyman Rig Technician and successful graduate of the Rig Technician program. We asked Iain to share with us his thoughts on some of the advantages the program has to offer.

One of the main objectives of the program is to create a common knowledge base that is consistent across industry, says Nafe.  For a company like Citadel, when your employees are all drawing from the same knowledge pool, you become more effective. Performance improves, efficiencies are gained and the workplace becomes a safer place.

Historically, training in the drilling industry has followed a traditional -learn-on-the-job approach. According to Nafe, this “old school approach” relies on senior, experienced guys passing on their knowledge to the junior guys. While this is a valuable part of the learning process and needs to continue, - on-the-job training alone has its limitations, inconsistency being one of them.

Nafe says he can remember earlier in his career being taught to execute a maintenance program a certain way. Others were taught a different way to perform the same work. When I queried why that was, nobody could really explain it other than to say, “that’s the way we’ve always done it. “

It’s not uncommon to see guys performing work and they can’t explain why they use a certain method or follow a particular process. It may be that the worker was never given the theory behind the need to perform a job a certain way? Perhaps the mentor didn’t know why, or maybe the worker didn’t have the confidence to speak up and ask questions during the initial instruction?                  

Trying to learn in an operating environment can be challenging at the best of times. The work is physically demanding, -fast-paced, and noisy. If you have a supervisor who is pressed for time or becomes impatient easily, and they’re trying to teach someone who is new to the job, or lacks confidence asking questions of the boss, the training process can be a frustrating experience.

Learning is supposed to be a time to ask questions, to step out of your comfort zone and grow, says Nafe. One of the advantages of the Rig Technician program is that a good portion of the learning takes place at school. The classroom provides a controlled environment where instructors ensure students have the theory behind the process, and guys can ask the kind of questions they may not feel comfortable asking in the field.

Another great thing about the program, says Nafe, is that it provides students a learning experience that goes beyond their immediate work environment. For example, I recall when I was attending my first year, I learned to hook up two­­­ 12-volt batteries in sequence to create 24 volts. I had never been shown this previously; I had always worked on new A/C rigs and had never come across a situation that required this.

The Rig Technician curriculum is broad in scope, designed to ensure students are exposed to all aspects of the drilling industry. Apprentices study everything from well control to communications. The instructors are excellent, very knowledgeable and willing to share their experience, says Nafe. I participated in some great discussions, drawing not only on the wisdom of the instructors but also from the other students.

The drilling industry is undergoing change. Equipment is becoming more sophisticated and employers are placing greater emphasis on skills and knowledge when it comes to promoting staff. For workers looking to advance their career to the next level, having a journeyman certification just might be the difference.

The Rig Technician program is offered through a number of colleges and technical schools across western Canada. For more information visit the CAODC website at or Rig Tech at

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