Building the future foundation workforce

GDI’s new columnist Joe Patterson reports from ADSC’s Summer Meeting 2017

Building the future foundation workforce

Welcome to my new column here at GeoDrilling International. I have recently retired from my family's drill business and am honoured to be given the opportunity to write a regular column on happenings in North America. My professional background is in the drill rig and drifter manufacturing business, and thus I have followed the trends in foundation drilling equipment and practices over the past 25 years. 

When brainstorming ideas for this column with GDI's editor, we concluded that current news from North America would be a good topic with almost limitless information and ideas to pull from. In my retirement, I plan to continue to attend the trade shows and meetings of the drilling industry. These trips will help me remain up to date with the current equipment and practices but will also be a good reason to visit with my many friends from around the drilling world.

Recently, I attended the summer meeting of the ADSC - The International Association of Foundation Drilling in Montreal, Québec, Canada, where I received many ideas for this column from the manufacturers, contractors and engineers attending the event.

In North America, as with most other parts of the world, there is a shortage of skilled labour and this shortage will only continue to grow. Historically recruiting new labour in the drilling industry has been easy; you just made your children work at the company. They grew up around the equipment and knew how to drill a hole by the time they were 15. Nepotism worked for years, but now we need a new method of finding recruits for the foundation drilling industry. To address this situation, industry trade organisations are working to promote the ability to make a very good living in the foundation industry. 

The ADSC has started a programme called ‘Six Figures, No Suits', which reaches out to high school and trade school students who don't want to attend college but want a job that can provide for a family. The objective is first to change the perception that you must go to college to have a successful career and then secondly to create a venue for these students to enter the foundation workforce. To begin this process, the ADSC is working with its contractor members to collect information about how they go about hiring and training new employees. Certain requirements that most drilling companies have in common will allow this programme to target the correct individuals for a job in the foundation drilling industry.

Of course, after new employees are found they will need training and certification to operate the complicated drilling equipment. Another initiative under development is the Foundation Drill Rig Operators Certification Program, also being developed by the ADSC in conjunction with the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO). The NCCCO was established in 1995 and has a long history in the development of operator certification programmes for the crane and heavy equipment industries. This operator programme will use a professional job task analysis as the basis of the examinations and include both written and practical exams to graduate legally certified operators. However, there is another reason to develop this training. Years ago, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), part of the US Department of Labor, classified dedicated drill rigs in the same category as cranes.  Of course, this was a very difficult set of regulations to comply with for drill rig manufacturers and owners. It took many years of lobbying OSHA to change their view and regulate drill rigs separately from cranes. To never revert to these regulations, the parties developing the Drill Rig Operators Certification want to make very clear that now and in the future dedicated drill rigs are not cranes. The launch date for this programme is the summer of 2018.

Programmes like the ones above need to be implemented and supported for the industry to succeed; if they aren't, we all lose, whether we are in the foundation industry or not.

It appears that I have rambled on a bit in my first column; I had more to talk about, including topics such as California growing larger from a huge landslide and the foundation contractor's equipment getting stuck in the middle of it. However, that story will have to wait until my next piece.


 Joe Patterson has 25 years of experience in the foundation and mining industries, mostly in North America. He has been heavily involved in drill trade organisations, working to promote innovative ideas and quality work in all aspects of drilling. Now, recently retired Patterson will be able to devote more time to studying, observing and reporting on the drilling industry.