Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s national oil company, employs 70,000 workers and recruits between 3,000 and 4,000 apprentices every year. As such, training so many new employees – as well as topping up the experience of existing staff – is a mammoth task.
The company’s Vocational and Academic Skills Training (VAST) programme is managed in-house, and prepares people with both the technical and soft skills required for job roles in mechanics, security, maintenance and administration. It involves self-study courses, as well as face-to-face training provided at centres across the country.
However, feedback revealed that there were problems with programme graduates’ communication abilities and understanding of training and instruction manuals. Much of the learning was still provided through outdated textbooks, and instructors complained that the materials were geared more towards passing tests rather than long-term learning. The whole programme required an upgrade.
In 2016, Saudi Aramco began research into how to improve the out-of-date system, analysing job tasks, work samples and entry sheets and interviewing over 100 employees and supervisors about their training needs.
The upgraded, interactive, self-guided programme is now delivered on iPads, rather than textbooks. Learners can store their progress, re-do any exercises they feel they need to, and benefit from new videos and 3D images to support their learning.
Career counsellors were also introduced, supporting employees in their training and working with those who struggle either to complete the training or have personal problems affecting their learning.
Now, 98 per cent of employees enrolled in the programme successfully complete their training, marking a 65 per cent reduction in failure rate since the programme was overhauled. The first cohort of apprentices trained on the new programme graduated in 2018, and managers surveyed about their quality of work responded overwhelmingly positively.