HDD training can help address labor issues

As horizontal directional drilling (HDD) continues to be in high demand, there simply aren’t enough experienced drillers available to keep up. Many contractors promote laborers from within their ranks or hire novice operators and train them for the job. However, for many new operators, this type of HDD training may not deliver the ideal learning environment.

It is tempting to use on-the-job HDD training as the main tool to get operators up to speed, which allows them to produce results while learning. But this approach can come with shortfalls. The pressure to not make a mistake when running a drill is not conducive to learning. Newer operators’ attention is consumed with running the drill instead of absorbing the information. That’s why more HDD contractors are enlisting HDD experts to help train their teams through a combination of online, classroom and simulator tools.

Flexible HDD training options from equipment dealers can be tailored to best fit your operation’s needs while getting your operators up to speed quickly. Vermeer drill specialists are at the center of these training efforts. Consider these dealer experts an extension of your team.

“We have seen that when we train someone on the job, and it’s their first day running a drill, their retention is extremely low. When we train them in the classroom, that retention skyrockets,” said Monte Erritt, vice president of employee development and training at Vermeer Southeast.

HDD training delivered by experts

One key factor that makes Vermeer dealer-led training different than the typical on-the-job experience is who teaches the operator. A Vermeer drill specialist conducts the training.

“Our drill specialists are not just operators. Every field specialist that we have has been a contractor. They really become a consultant. If you can’t get a tough bore done, our drill specialists are the ones who come out and get the bore done. There is a tremendous amount of value in the level of specialists that we hire. If you train me how to run the equipment, that is helpful. But when the drill specialist is the guy you call when you cannot get a bore shot out, the value goes through the roof,” said Erritt.

Due to this value, drill specialists are always in high demand. Vermeer dealers have stepped up to the plate and developed additional training tools that supplement the services offered by the drill specialists. Dealers provide training in an environment that helps maximize information retention. Video, factory-standardized classes, simulators and customized training through the dealership give you choices based on your needs.

“There’s not any one perfect tool for training. We have several different tools in the toolbox for customers. We started a true initiative five or six years ago and every single year it continues to ramp up and demand ramps up,” said Erritt.

Video addresses common questions

Many of the most common questions don’t require a drill specialist traveling to a jobsite to answer them.

“A lot of the calls fielded by the drill specialists were very common. We started thinking about ways we could handle these questions when the drill specialists were not available. These drill specialists spend most of their time on the jobsite so they are not always accessible,” said Erritt.

An HDD training solution came in the form of videos to address common questions.

“The specialists would identify a topic based on the number of calls they were receiving and a video addressing that topic would be produced and posted to our website,” said Erritt.

When customers have questions, the dealership can share links to the videos to help. This can free up more of the drill specialists’ time to address other customer challenges.

“Some of these videos have upward of 5,000 views. There are a lot of younger people running drills right now. That’s how they learn,” Erritt explained.

Once Vermeer Southeast has the video, the dealership posts it to its social media profiles. Finally, sales reps and drill specialists will email those out to drill customers. That drives traffic back to the website where customers can see all the available video resources.

Several of these HDD training videos have been produced in Spanish. Vermeer Southeast brought in bilingual drilling specialists to help produce the videos.

“There is a high demand for it. We’re continually trying to hire more bilingual field employees,” noted Erritt.

Classroom training

Factory-certified HDD training in a classroom is a popular option offered by the Vermeer dealer network. The HDD fundamental course is designed for all skill levels.

“We even see in these fundamental classes that 20-plus-year drillers didn’t know some of the material,” said Erritt.

Demand for the HDD fundamental course continues to grow.

“We have put 700-plus people through this class just here in the Southeast. Meeting demand is one of our biggest challenges. HDD training classroom events are held about every quarter. Class size is typically limited so every single person leaves equipped to do their job better. We could have 50 per class if we allowed it, but we generally try to keep them to 25 and under so we can give them some undivided attention,” said Erritt.

One course objective is to educate the industry through standardized HDD training.

“A common misconception is that if you don’t run a Vermeer drill, this training is not for you. We do not design this training around Vermeer drills. It is fundamental directional drilling training,” said Erritt.

Simulator training

Vermeer dealers have invested in simulators that help train operators how to run a directional drill without running a machine in the field.

“In about four hours we can have you trained [on the simulator]. If you oversteer the rods, it tells you. It’s just like drilling. You just don’t quite have the feel like you do in drilling. Everything else functions just like you were sitting on a drill. When you complete a bore plan, the simulator provides a printout of all the things you did well and all of the mistakes that you made,” said Erritt.

This HDD training tool benefits all experience levels. Many experienced operators develop habits. Maybe they never grease the rod. The simulator will catch this error. If you over torque the joint, the simulator tells you. It provides a scorecard at the end to show operators where they might have opportunities for growth.

“We currently have two simulators. They are very mobile. We have two trailers that are set up where the contractor can come to our facility or we can go to their office or jobsite and do the training there,” said Erritt.

Customized training

For bigger groups, Vermeer dealers can offer customized HDD training.

“Depending on who provides the equipment and the type of training required, we create a custom quote. That is becoming a popular option,” said Erritt.

Investing in training sets operators up for success and sends a message that they are valued members of the team. Your local Vermeer dealer can help bring these operators up to speed quickly, maximizing the productivity of everyone on the team.

“We are able to take existing employees that you simply don’t have time to get trained up. You can put them in our hands and we can get them competent. It will help operators accelerate their learning curve,” said Erritt.

Contact your local Vermeer dealer to learn more about HDD training.

Vermeer Corporation reserves the right to make changes in engineering, design and specifications; add improvements; or discontinue manufacturing at any time without notice or obligation. Equipment shown is for illustrative purposes only and may display optional accessories or components specific to their global region. Please contact your local Vermeer dealer for more information on machine specifications.

Vermeer and the Vermeer logo are trademarks of Vermeer Manufacturing Company in the U.S. and/or other countries. © 2023 Vermeer Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

VERMEER HDD TRAINING PROGRAMS

From one- and two-week options at Vermeer headquarters in Pella, Iowa, to new specialized courses offered by local Vermeer dealers, or online HDD training resources – Vermeer is here for you and your crew.

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