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ISTT win for ADITC

“I would have loved to have accepted the award in person in Istanbul, were it not for the flight,” lamented Australian Drilling Industry Training Committee (ADITC) CEO Virginia Hilliard, speaking about the International Society for Trenchless Technology (ISTT) Gala Dinner in Turkey, where the ISTT’s awards were presented in September 2015.

ADITC received the accolade for its DICAT Training Course Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) Edition. Due to a knee injury, Ms Hilliard was unable to take the 16-hour flight from Australia to Turkey, meaning ADITC had to receive the prestigious award from afar.

Despite missing out on the award ceremony, Ms Hilliard was grateful to accept the ISTT’s highest accolade in the field of training, and was hopeful that the international recognition could lead to other countries adopting and rolling out the training materials.

“The course has an international reference, and I hope that other ISTT societies will promote it. We nominated it for the ISTT award because we have confidence in its strength and content. We feel that it is needed by the industry, and contains very valuable information.”

What is the DICAT course?
“It’s a technical training course available to people who are working in the drilling industry and wanting to expand their knowledge and theoretical understanding while they’re working. It has been adapted for HDD, microtunnelling and auger boring,” says Ms Hilliard.

The DICAT course, which stands for drilling industry certification and training, is a system that has been in Australia for 33 years.

“The DICAT was developed by the Australian Drilling Industry Training Committee, which started up in 1978. We developed the course to assist the industry to help individuals professionalise themselves.

“The 1982 version of the DICAT course was aimed only at mineral and water drilling. It has been revised and reviewed as time has gone on.”

The decision to adapt the DICAT formula into the HDD industry came about during 2013-14, when the ADITC was receiving a lot of requests from the industry, due to a lack of resource material dedicated toward HDD.

“We had a lot of specific requests as well as the suppliers who wanted to make sure that people had a good handle on their equipment. Requests were coming from manufacturers for similar reasons,” she says.

“We also began to get queries and concerns from some sectors in the industry that trenchless supplies to, such as energy supply companies in New South Wales. They wanted a means of knowing the people working on their assets were adequately trained.”

Ms Hilliard says one end goal of the training is for utilities and councils to require evidence in their tender documents that contractors have undertaken this training. However, in the interim where this requirement does not exist, Ms Hilliard says obtaining the HDD DICAT will set those tendering with the qualification apart from other tenderers who cannot provide proof of adequate qualifications.

“It’s a competitive edge,” explains Ms Hilliard. “The companies that have undertaken the training so far were smaller contractors. They saw obtaining these qualifications as another way to set themselves apart from their competitors.”

In developing the course, Ms Hilliard thanks trenchless consultancy firm Trenchless Advisor, who she says provided a lot of advice and assistance.

How does the course work?
The course is a distance learning/correspondence program, so it’s available for use on-site. Individuals can study at the time and speed that suits them, all while being fully supported throughout the process wherever they are in the world.

This allows employers to effectively utilise downtime – it requires no travelling to training sites, and no interruption to the job. Costly rig shut-downs are avoided as employees do not have to leave the site to undertake the course.

The course is offered at a modest cost so that individuals and companies of all sizes are able to participate.

It is suitable for people who are new to the industry, as well as experienced and senior drillers alike.

“Depending on the individual’s experience, they could start the course one or two years in, to jump to where their expertise is at,” says Ms Hilliard.

The course is aligned to the Australian National Competency standards for the drilling industry, and satisfies the knowledge base of the Australian standards, which are respected worldwide, and it is applicable to personnel in the industry working anywhere.

What’s in store for the trenchless industry?
Ms Hilliard took the position of CEO at ADITC in 1994, 21 years ago. “The trenches sector has pretty much come into being since I started in the industry. There was no ASTT representative in our committee back then.

“In the current climate, there’s a concern about professionalising the industry. This is always an issue when an industry is largely made up of small businesses. It’s a challenge for those small businesses to do something about qualifications and training. Additionally, a lot of people in the trenchless sector work in small family businesses, where the training may have been handed down from generation to generation with no formal industry education,” says Ms Hilliard.

Formalised training seeks to fill any gaps there may have been in this training, and to bring in an external view of what competence means.

Next steps
Ms Hilliard says it’s important for the industry to take on board the opportunity to control the requirements of contractors while it is still in a position to and warns that if it doesn’t happen now future restrictions may be imposed at higher levels.

“Such impositions usually occur once there is a serious incident to personnel – and we have seen this happen in other industries. This would take away the advantage of the industry being able to gradually take on training and qualifications, and to do so at its own pace.

“When it becomes a regulated or legislated structure you might have a year to do it. This would be a massive strain on companies and strain on the industry. Let’s be at the forefront and make the changes to training regulation while it’s still ours to make,” she says.

While Ms Hilliard may have missed the opportunity to accept the award in person at No-Dig Istanbul, in the company of esteemed international society members, the course’s strengths and global possibilities speak for themselves. It’s likely this won’t be the last we hear of the DICAT HDD course on the international trenchless scene.

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