It’s been a year since Cactus Drilling rolled out a mentoring program to help new hires transition into the oilfield. According to Kathy Willingham, Vice President of HR and HSE, the program has been extremely successful.
“It seems odd to throw someone into the field with zero experience,” she said. “Not only does our mentoring program give the person the tools they need to make it in the oil patch, but it greatly reduces turnover.”
Once a new hire is sent to a mentor rig, they have three to six months of training to learn the necessary skills to make it in the industry.
Greg “Smooth” Simpson pushes tools on Rig 151 with driller Jared Johnston.
“We’ve only been a mentor rig for a short time,” explains Simpson. “But I can see the benefits of the program. We start off with the basic workings of
the rig and try to figure out what the trainee already knows. It’s important to explain everything without totally overwhelming them.”
As a driller, Johnston says he loves the program and has been a fan since day one.
“There’s no longer a learning curve,” he said. “We are plugging people in who know what’s going on. And in my experience, the crews love it. Any time they get to teach someone something, it boosts morale.”
Jose Hernandez is a trainee on Rig 151 who has been shadowing Smooth for four weeks.
“My job right now is to watch, listen and help wherever I can,” he said. “Smooth keeps me on my toes. That’s why it’s important to ask a lot of questions, especially when you don’t understand.”
Many of these new hires are young people who are eager to break into the oilfield and others are individuals who have been in a different field and want a career change. Several are family and friends of current Cactus employees, while others were literally recruited from other jobs.
“I watched this kid for a long time out of my window,” said Rig 128 Toolpusher Clayton Habekott. “He was a pipe inspector and every time he came on site, he was active, hard working and always made an effort to speak to me. So I offered him a job.”
Aurelio Gamez was a tobacco farmer in Kentucky before he was a pipe inspector. Disappointed by his former employee’s willingness to move him up the professional ladder, Gamez was moments away from leaving the oilfield to return to his family’s farm.
“Clayton gave me an opportunity and I took it,” he said. “This has been a dream. I can now provide for my family and pay for their college.”
Habekott says that every trainee is different.
“Lots of kids these days have never been off of cement or seen dirt,” he said. “We’re training them on the rig, but we’re also training them with life skills they need to know. If they listen to me and my hands, they will go home safe every day.”