Shouting for Joy! A Groundbreaking Virtual Oil and Gas Training Achievement in Nigeria

There are days when you simply want to shout, as loud as you can, for joy! That happened to me recently. We had just finished the wrap-up session for two major virtual learning programs – a two-week program for 400 Management Graduate Trainees and an eight-week program for 650 Technical Graduate Trainees, all 1,050 of whom had recently joined the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and were confined at home because of Covid-19.

Notwithstanding our concern for the magnitude of the challenge at the onset in mid-June, NNPC’s Talent Management Team, and I agreed to move forward with care, enthusiasm, and the strong support of our integrated teams. IHRDC was anchored by a dedicated team of instructors, mentors, content developers, administrative personnel and our extensive inventory of learning resources, and NNPC by its agile team from the Talent Management Department and IT specialists, who worked tirelessly to translate NNPC’s vision for Young Graduate Development into action and ensuring the virtual meeting platform (Microsoft Teams) ran flawlessly for both individual and team sessions of Graduate Trainees who were spread throughout Nigeria.

The First Two Weeks for 1,050 Participants. The initial two-weeks consisted of six-hour per day learning sessions with a focus on the commercial and technical fundamentals of the oil and gas value chain, both upstream and downstream, and an NNPC-selected set of soft skills. All content was accessed through the IHRDC Learning Portal.

Learning Format: Each day consisted of three forms of learning: Morning and afternoon lectures and discussion sessions by experienced specialists, followed by team-based assignments in the Sandland Petroleum Project Simulation Game and Nigeria’s Petroleum Industry Board Game. In the Sandland Simulation, teams competed for the best financial performance, as they pursued a petroleum exploration lead in a hypothetical West African country, to full field development and 20 years of operation. In the Board Game, teams researched the essence of Nigeria’s domestic oil and gas industry and captured each entity or resource area in a special IHRDC template that they used to generate a large-scale poster board for presentation to management.

Typical Board Game Poster from the Virtual Training Sessions

Team Formation: The participants were divided into 105 teams of 10 participants each. These were divided further into 5 Groups of 21 teams who were supported by mentors to answer questions and hold open office hours.  Team members communicated through individual Team Forums hosted on the Microsoft Teams screen-sharing tool. Team members worked well into the evening hours on their challenging assignments and preparation of presentations. I must say, their performance and presentations were outstanding. Each participant also completed daily assessments which were compiled, summarized, and reviewed in the final program report.

Post-Program Survey: The learners completed a Post-Program Survey on the two-week program and many of them took the time to speak very highly on its quality and the enjoyable learning experience it provided them.  They were impressed with all aspects of the program, as was summarized with key words that appeared in the five comments “Impactful and insightful journey”, “thrilling”, “superb”, “excellent”, and “essential”. One person summed them up:

“This training was an eye opener from the board games to the simulation to the lectures. God bless the Corporation (NNPC) for such investment and thank you to all our facilitators from IHRDC.”

Both IHRDC and NNPC team members were overjoyed with the outcomes we all worked so hard to achieve.

The Next Six Weeks for 650 Participants: The initial two-week program was followed by a six-week, virtual program for the 650 NNPC Technical Graduate Trainees devoted to in-depth technical fundamentals and practical applications along the oil and gas value chain. The curriculum is summarized in the graphic below. Each topic area was allotted 1-3 days for delivery.

Training Topic Map

Learning Format: We knew that the learning format needed to be both challenging and diverse while incorporating team engagement to achieve the learning objectives. The final design included two lecture and discussion sessions per day along with a variety of individual and team activities including e-learning, on-point readings, and, of greatest value, unique team-based assignments that IHRDC specialists developed for each topic and for which the teams prepared and delivered presentations.  The participants rated these assignments very highly in the post-program survey.

Team Formation: Participants were divided into 52 teams and three Groups of 17-18 teams, each with their dedicated online mentors. In addition to participating in lectures, teams were asked to review, analyze, discuss, and make presentation on special assignments for each major weekly topic area. Once again, we were very impressed with the extent of their commitment and the quality of their presentations. I must add that mentors were able to listen and comment on about one-half of the presentations; however, NNPC plans to schedule additional presentations with managers after the closing of the program.

Faculty: The content was delivered by a diverse faculty of full-time IHRDC instructors and our Associates who were specialists in this extensive curriculum. In many cases there was a need to modify content to make it applicable to local applications and to build special case studies as well as team assignments to be used as an integral part of the learning process.

Assessments: Each day, the participants were asked to complete an online assessment covering the content delivered that day. It typically covered 10-15 questions that tested their understanding of the topic.

Post-Program Survey: We also asked the participants to complete a post-program survey in which we asked substantial questions about their career choices as well as the quality and scope of the program, its content, design and learning format. Among the learning formats they especially liked were the simulation games, team assignments and daily assessments. We had over 500 very positive comments on the value of the program from the participants. The very first one on our list summarizes the essence of all of them:

“This program is the perfect springboard for a successful career in the oil and gas industry. The lectures, team assignments and discussions were perfectly tailored to stimulate the creative thinking of participants. Quality of lectures as well as tutors is nothing short of outstanding.”

In eight short weeks both NNPC and IHRDC learned an enormous amount about the effective design and delivery of virtual training programs to large audiences, and I, personally, was in awe at the ability to deliver a substantial curriculum to so many, so effectively. For me, whether teaching at the university or with IHRDC, my audiences have typically been in the range of 25-50. These audiences were 20 times larger.

The magnitude of the challenge came home to me when I finished my first lecture and, in traditional fashion, asked “Are there any questions?” One of our team members immediately commented, “Do you really want questions from more than 1000 people?” We soon learned that our mentors were the ideal specialists to answer what was on the trainees’ minds!

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