A Career in
Drilling

If you like working with your hands and being outdoors, then why not consider a career in the drilling industry?

For people who like to mix a bit of adventure into their lifestyle and make a decent living whilst doing it, it can be an excellent career choice. The job opportunities are varied and can go from entry level positions through to management or even owning your own business.

Drilling is about using specialised equipment to drill a hole into the ground which could be for many different purposes.

It could be in exploration to prove up a new gold mine, it could be to drill a water-bore for a station owner to provide water for their cattle, or, to drill investigation holes on a construction project.

Sounds simple but is often more complex and challenging than this and requires skills that are largely learned on the job over many years.

Drilling is about using specialised equipment to drill a hole into the ground which could be for many different purposes.

It could be in exploration to prove up a new gold mine, it could be to drill a water-bore for a station owner to provide water for their cattle, or, to drill investigation holes on a construction project.

Sounds simple but is often more complex and challenging than this and requires skills that are largely learned on the job over many years.

Drilling is about using specialised equipment to drill a hole into the ground which could be for many different purposes.

It could be in exploration to prove up a new gold mine, it could be to drill a water-bore for a station owner to provide water for their cattle, or, to drill investigation holes on a construction project.

Sounds simple but is often more complex and challenging than this and requires skills that are largely learned on the job over many years.

How does a typical day start?

Due to the often-remote locations that drilling takes place in, many jobsites require the drill crew to work on a roster basis.

A typical roster would be 14 days on and then 7 days off, but this can vary and be either longer or shorter dependent on where the site is and what works best. This means that staff could take a flight to site and live and work there for the duration of their roster. Some sites may be closer to regional towns which means that driving to and from site is a possible alternative. Construction drilling can take place in major city locations, which may better suit someone who would prefer to be at home each night.

Drillers enjoy being able to go to their jobsite and work with a small team to achieve their daily goals. Shift length is usually 12 hours long and will be day shift or night shift and can alternate between the two.

Preparation for the start of shift will begin early and will include preparation of enough food and fluids to last the day. The crew will then assemble at their vehicles and undertake the necessary pre-start checks to see if there are any service requirements needing attention before heading off.

At a mine or construction site there will be regular safety messaging that is integral to all operations including driving, and unsafe activities will not be tolerated. At first this can be a bit overwhelming to the newcomer, but it is about minimising risk and getting everyone home again safely. This meeting is also a good opportunity to discuss how the drilling is progressing so that there are no surprises for the incoming crew.

Drillers enjoy being able to go to their jobsite and work with a small team to achieve their daily goals. Shift length is usually 12 hours long and will be day shift or night shift and can alternate between the two.

Preparation for the start of shift will begin early and will include preparation of enough food and fluids to last the day. The crew will then assemble at their vehicles and undertake the necessary pre-start checks to see if there are any service requirements needing attention before heading off.

At a mine or construction site there will be regular safety messaging that is integral to all operations including driving, and unsafe activities will not be tolerated. At first this can be a bit overwhelming to the newcomer, but it is about minimising risk and getting everyone home again safely. This meeting is also a good opportunity to discuss how the drilling is progressing so that there are no surprises for the incoming crew.

Drillers enjoy being able to go to their jobsite and work with a small team to achieve their daily goals. Shift length is usually 12 hours long and will be day shift or night shift and can alternate between the two.

Preparation for the start of shift will begin early and will include preparation of enough food and fluids to last the day. The crew will then assemble at their vehicles and undertake the necessary pre-start checks to see if there are any service requirements needing attention before heading off.

At a mine or construction site there will be regular safety messaging that is integral to all operations including driving, and unsafe activities will not be tolerated. At first this can be a bit overwhelming to the newcomer, but it is about minimising risk and getting everyone home again safely. This meeting is also a good opportunity to discuss how the drilling is progressing so that there are no surprises for the incoming crew.

Getting underway

Drilling can often require the drilling contractor to have their rigs working above ground, which means the drill crew work outdoors, regardless of the prevailing weather conditions.

People considering a career in drilling need to recognise this from the outset and understand that they could be working in conditions ranging from wet and cold, through to very hot and humid.

In exploration drilling there are mine sites where the rigs are required to drill from underground. This presents a different set of conditions that the crew members must adapt to, but it is important to realise that it is no less safe than working on the surface. Lighting and ventilation are generally more than adequate, and it can be a pleasant alternative to the heat of the direct sun, wind and the flies on a surface drill site.

Many underground drillers choose never to work on a surface rig and alternatively many drillers who have learned their trade on surface rigs never feel the need to venture underground. Whatever the situation, there will always be plans in place to work safely and as comfortable as possible in the prevailing conditions.

There are more prestart maintenance and safety checks to be done on arrival at the rig. The drill crew are usually capable to conduct regular service needs, with a rig fitter called upon for more complex requirements.

In exploration drilling there are mine sites where the rigs are required to drill from underground. This presents a different set of conditions that the crew members must adapt to, but it is important to realise that it is no less safe than working on the surface. Lighting and ventilation are generally more than adequate, and it can be a pleasant alternative to the heat of the direct sun, wind and the flies on a surface drill site.

Many underground drillers choose never to work on a surface rig and alternatively many drillers who have learned their trade on surface rigs never feel the need to venture underground. Whatever the situation, there will always be plans in place to work safely and as comfortable as possible in the prevailing conditions.

There are more prestart maintenance and safety checks to be done on arrival at the rig. The drill crew are usually capable to conduct regular service needs, with a rig fitter called upon for more complex requirements.

In exploration drilling there are mine sites where the rigs are required to drill from underground. This presents a different set of conditions that the crew members must adapt to, but it is important to realise that it is no less safe than working on the surface. Lighting and ventilation are generally more than adequate, and it can be a pleasant alternative to the heat of the direct sun, wind and the flies on a surface drill site.

Many underground drillers choose never to work on a surface rig and alternatively many drillers who have learned their trade on surface rigs never feel the need to venture underground. Whatever the situation, there will always be plans in place to work safely and as comfortable as possible in the prevailing conditions.

There are more prestart maintenance and safety checks to be done on arrival at the rig. The drill crew are usually capable to conduct regular service needs, with a rig fitter called upon for more complex requirements.

Drilling Methods

Holes are drilled for a variety of reasons and at an exploration or construction site, it will be for the purpose of recovering a sample of material from the target zone.

 The recovered sample provides an accurate representation of the ground conditions, which will inform the geologist or engineer of what to expect as they undertake their operational planning.

In water-bore drilling, the hole is drilled to reach the zone where water is located so that it can be recovered by pumping, or it can flow to the surface by its own means if there is sufficient contained pressure.

There are different roles at the rig site dependent on years and level of experience. The driller is the most senior and will operate the rig controls during operations. They have put the time in to gain the practical knowledge and understanding needed to be able to make decisions and run a rig productively and safely. Drill rigs have a lot of technology built into them and a good driller will know how to achieve maximum benefit from this.

The drillers offsider assists the driller in all other activities, and this is the entry level position that employees new to the industry must start in. It will include tasks such as preparing the drill rods for adding into the hole and emptying and logging the sampling system being used. The offsider will also maintain the mud system which keeps the drill hole stable and keeps the drill bit lubricated as it penetrates the ground.

As the drill bit advances, more drill rods are added to the string to drill the next section. This can go on for hundreds or even a few thousand metres. It is therefore not surprising that a good level of expertise is needed to do this efficiently and safely. When it comes to needing to remove the drill string from the hole, the offsider will play a large part in this operation. It is a physical task, but modern drilling equipment often contains automated rod handling devices to do the heavy lifting.

There are different roles at the rig site dependent on years and level of experience. The driller is the most senior and will operate the rig controls during operations. They have put the time in to gain the practical knowledge and understanding needed to be able to make decisions and run a rig productively and safely. Drill rigs have a lot of technology built into them and a good driller will know how to achieve maximum benefit from this.

The drillers offsider assists the driller in all other activities, and this is the entry level position that employees new to the industry must start in. It will include tasks such as preparing the drill rods for adding into the hole and emptying and logging the sampling system being used. The offsider will also maintain the mud system which keeps the drill hole stable and keeps the drill bit lubricated as it penetrates the ground.

As the drill bit advances, more drill rods are added to the string to drill the next section. This can go on for hundreds or even a few thousand metres. It is therefore not surprising that a good level of expertise is needed to do this efficiently and safely. When it comes to needing to remove the drill string from the hole, the offsider will play a large part in this operation. It is a physical task, but modern drilling equipment often contains automated rod handling devices to do the heavy lifting.

There are different roles at the rig site dependent on years and level of experience. The driller is the most senior and will operate the rig controls during operations. They have put the time in to gain the practical knowledge and understanding needed to be able to make decisions and run a rig productively and safely. Drill rigs have a lot of technology built into them and a good driller will know how to achieve maximum benefit from this.

The drillers offsider assists the driller in all other activities, and this is the entry level position that employees new to the industry must start in. It will include tasks such as preparing the drill rods for adding into the hole and emptying and logging the sampling system being used. The offsider will also maintain the mud system which keeps the drill hole stable and keeps the drill bit lubricated as it penetrates the ground.

As the drill bit advances, more drill rods are added to the string to drill the next section. This can go on for hundreds or even a few thousand metres. It is therefore not surprising that a good level of expertise is needed to do this efficiently and safely. When it comes to needing to remove the drill string from the hole, the offsider will play a large part in this operation. It is a physical task, but modern drilling equipment often contains automated rod handling devices to do the heavy lifting.

Once a new offsider learns the processes, operations can be completed seamlessly, with everyone in the crew getting on with their individual tasks. The offsider must be prepared to listen to the driller and follow all instructions. Rod handling is a repetitive process and can take several hours in a deep hole.

Things don’t always go to plan and the driller will sometimes need to take corrective action to get things back on target. This could be something like the drill bit wandering from its intended target, or conditions changing unexpectedly causing the drilling fluid circulation becoming lost. This is where experience counts and often the driller will have encountered the same difficulties before and may know the solution. The driller will complete the drill report at regular intervals, recording the progress and making notes of anything significant. This will be tallied up at the end of the shift and is forwarded on to the office.

Mobilizing between holes

Drillers and offsiders will usually hold a heavy vehicle drivers license which will allow them to drive the drill rig and support trucks between the drill sites and base.

Distances travelled could just be short when moving from one hole to the next or could involve extended journeys of hundreds of kms to the next site or back to base. Part of a drill offsiders training could involve getting these licenses and this is another valuable qualification that the person will retain for life.

End of shift

At the end of the drill shift and with work done for the day, the crew pack up and return to their camp or base of operations. If working in a typical FIFO operation, they will head to their accommodation and get cleaned up and take their evening meal.

This is also an opportunity to catch-up with work mates and enjoy some relaxation time. Camps are normally equipped with good wifi and phone coverage, allowing residents to be able to communicate with family and friends back at home.

Other roles

There are other roles in the drilling industry that could be considered as an alternative to beginning as an offsider. For an entry level position this could be a trade apprenticeship such as a mechanical fitter, boilermaker or electrician.

These positions are often based at the companies headquarters and focused on preparing equipment for use in the field. It can also involve some periodic fieldwork to perform maintenance and repairs when the equipment is in use. There are also permanent field roles available which would normally be for when someone has completed their apprenticeship and has gained sufficient experience to work alone. 

Some other role alternatives include training and safety officers, logistic and HR staff. These however are not normally entry level roles but can be options for experienced people who want to transfer from drilling into something different

People considering a career in the drilling industry need to be aware that days on site are long and can be tiring. If in a remote location it can also involve working for several weeks straight without a day off. This takes a bit of getting used to and therefore is not for everyone.

Those who stick it out also enjoy the extended time off they get back at home, which allows them to enjoy family and recreational activities which would not be possible in a regular 5-day week job. The renumeration is also much better and is no doubt one of the reasons that people choose drilling in the first place.

Drilling does offer a career and one that allows learning on the job, complimented by industry courses for gaining nationally recognized qualifications. Offsiders can complete a Certificate 2, which then allows them to progress onto getting their Certificate 3 in drilling.

Many jobsites require certification as a condition of employment and therefore drilling contractors will support new employees on their pathway to achieving qualifications.

There are further certification levels for drillers aspiring to be supervisors and managers.

Many people who enter the drilling industry at an early age make it a career for life. There are some who are happy to get to driller or supervisor level and remain there, and then there are others who go onto senior management roles or even owning their own drilling company.

People considering a career in the drilling industry need to be aware that days on site are long and can be tiring. If in a remote location it can also involve working for several weeks straight without a day off. This takes a bit of getting used to and therefore is not for everyone.

Those who stick it out also enjoy the extended time off they get back at home, which allows them to enjoy family and recreational activities which would not be possible in a regular 5-day week job. The renumeration is also much better and is no doubt one of the reasons that people choose drilling in the first place.

Drilling does offer a career and one that allows learning on the job, complimented by industry courses for gaining nationally recognized qualifications. Offsiders can complete a Certificate 2, which then allows them to progress onto getting their Certificate 3 in drilling.

Many jobsites require certification as a condition of employment and therefore drilling contractors will support new employees on their pathway to achieving qualifications.

There are further certification levels for drillers aspiring to be supervisors and managers.

Many people who enter the drilling industry at an early age make it a career for life. There are some who are happy to get to driller or supervisor level and remain there, and then there are others who go onto senior management roles or even owning their own drilling company.

People considering a career in the drilling industry need to be aware that days on site are long and can be tiring. If in a remote location it can also involve working for several weeks straight without a day off. This takes a bit of getting used to and therefore is not for everyone.

Those who stick it out also enjoy the extended time off they get back at home, which allows them to enjoy family and recreational activities which would not be possible in a regular 5-day week job. The renumeration is also much better and is no doubt one of the reasons that people choose drilling in the first place.

Drilling does offer a career and one that allows learning on the job, complimented by industry courses for gaining nationally recognized qualifications. Offsiders can complete a Certificate 2, which then allows them to progress onto getting their Certificate 3 in drilling.

Many jobsites require certification as a condition of employment and therefore drilling contractors will support new employees on their pathway to achieving qualifications.

There are further certification levels for drillers aspiring to be supervisors and managers.

Many people who enter the drilling industry at an early age make it a career for life. There are some who are happy to get to driller or supervisor level and remain there, and then there are others who go onto senior management roles or even owning their own drilling company.

What’s next?

If working in the drilling industry does appeal to you, the way to approach it would be to respond to an advertisement for drillers offsiders which could come direct from a drilling company or through a recruitment agency.

There are a few recruitment companies who specialise in drilling and provide pre-employment training which is a great way of increasing your prospects of employment with a reputable drilling contractor (see below).

ADIA can also assist with details for drilling companies that you could contact direct. Drop us a line at info@adia.com.au.

As mentioned already, the type of work is not for everyone, but if you enjoy working outdoors and with other likeminded people, and prefer a bit of adventure in place of a regular 9 to 5 job, why not give it a try?

Contact ADIA

5 Profit Pass Wangara, WA 6065 Australia
Ph: (08) 6305 0466 E: info@adia.com.au

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