There are few formal education requirements for new extraction workers, although a considerable amount of job training and experience is needed before workers can perform most duties or advance to more skilled positions. Skilled maintenance and construction workers usually need several years of vocational training in their field, while workers in professional occupations need at least a bachelor's degree.
Workers in extraction occupations usually must be at least 18 years old, be in good physical condition, and pass a drug test. A high school diploma is not necessarily required, but is usually preferred; some companies also require workers to pass a basic skills test. Most workers start as helpers to experienced workers and learn skills on the job; however, formal training is becoming more important, as more technologically advanced machinery and methods are used. Given the increasing complexity of operations and the sophisticated nature of technology used today, employers now demand a higher level of skill and adaptability, including the ability to work with computers and other more complex equipment. As a result, some employers prefer to hire recent graduates of high school vocational programs in mining or graduates of junior college or technical school programs in mine technology. Such programs usually are found only at schools in mining areas.
Because of the unique dangers in mining operations, workers also need extensive safety training. The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 mandates that each U.S. mine have an approved worker training program in health and safety issues. Each plan must include at least 40 hours of basic safety training for new miners with no experience in underground mines, and 24 hours for new miners in surface mines. In addition to new miner training, each miner must receive at least 8 hours of refresher safety training a year, and miners assigned to new jobs must receive safety training relating to their new task. The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) also conducts classes on health, safety, and mining methods, and some mining machinery manufacturers offer courses in machine operation and maintenance as well. Increasingly, mines use more high-tech tools for miner training, such as machinery simulators and virtual reality simulators. By simulating actual mine conditions and emergencies, mine workers are better prepared and companies can instantly assess a mineworker's progress and skills.
As workers gain more experience, they can advance to higher paying jobs requiring greater skill. A mining machine operator's helper, for example, might become an operator, or a roughneck may become a derrick operator. Due to the extreme environment and critical nature of the work, offshore oil crews generally are more experienced than land crews. Many companies will not employ someone who has no knowledge of oilfield operations on dryer machine and ore beneficiation machine manufacturing to work on an offshore rig, so workers who have gained experience as part of a land crew might advance to offshore operations. Positions are usually filled on the basis of seniority and ability. Miners with significant experience or special training also can become mine safety, health, and compliance officers, whose duties include mine safety inspection.
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