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A background study for a proposed training center in Egypt

By Grady McAllister

Presented July 18, 1997
The University of Houston
College of Technology

This paper was written by Grady McAllister . It was completed as a Comprehensive Exam for a Master's Degree in Occupational Technology at the University of Houston. The ideas expressed do not represent the views of the University of Houston or the College of Technology.

This material is a case study. Although this report refers to certain published facts about the Aramco oil company, the writer is not connected to Aramco in any way.  The oil refinery described is fictional. The proposals offered in this material are entirely hypothetical; they are offered for the purpose of completing an academic exercise.

© 1997 by Grady McAllister. All Rights Reserved.

Author's Note: This paper proposes a training program for a hypothetical oil refinery in Cairo, Egypt. It looks at four broad areas:

I. Issues and Trends
II. Program Management
III. Program Evaluation
IV. Research into Performance Improvement Needs

Not coincidentally, these areas correspond to the four main classes that you have to complete for a Masters Degree in Occupational Education at the University of Houston.

General readers will probably find the first section (Issues and Trends) to be the most useful. I drew from a wide variety of published sources and tried to paint modern Egypt with a broad brush before I tackled the specific business at hand.

The hypothetical business at hand,  performance improvement and training, is covered in the following three sections. I expect that interest in this material will be confined to other students of occupational education.

Together,  the four sections form a type of business proposal: A plan to develop skills in people who have not yet been hired for a facility that has not yet been built.



Recent History

In 1967, Israel seized the Gaza Strip and the Sinai from Egypt. In 1977, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat visited Israel to initiate negotiations over the lands. That led to the Camp David accord and a phased withdrawal of Israel from the Sinai.

In 1981, Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Muslim extremists. Vice-president Hosni Mubarak became president. Mubarak has survived a 1986 revolt by security police and a 1995 assassination attempt. In 1990, Egypt participated in a multinational force that defended Saudi Arabia from Iraq.

As Egypt entered the mid 1990’s, Islamic militants continued to oppose Egypt’s government. They fought foreign influence and negotiation with Israel. Extremists have sometimes attacked foreign tourists.

Government raids on militants are common. Recently, security forces shot and killed three extremists during a gun battle in central Egypt.

Relations with Israel

This July, Egypt acted as mediator in an attempt to resume Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. In March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had allowed Israelis to begin building a settlement in Arab East Jerusalem. This led to a suspension of the peace process mandated by 1993 Oslo Peace accord.

The recent talks were disrupted when a Jewish woman put up posters in Hebron that depicted the Prophet Mohammed as a pig. During protests that followed, Israeli troops had killed one youth and wounded 37 others. Prior to the meeting, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa stated: "Talk of security for settlers is the wrong way around. Securing Palestinians against extremism should be examined" On July 11, Moussa announced that the talks had failed.

A Pervasive Distrust of Israel

Twenty years after Camp David, Egyptians still view Israel with profound distrust. Many see the peace as a "pax Americana": an agreement between the US and Egypt, rather than a peace between Egypt and Israel. The peace is supported by $2.1 billion in annual US aid to Egypt and $3 billion to Israel.

The Egyptian press gives voice to anti-Israel sentiments. The prestigious, government-controlled newspaper Al Ahram reported this year that Israelis had injected 305 Palestinian children with the AIDS virus. (It later ran a retraction.) Another story accused the Israeli intelligence service, the Mossad, of encouraging ‘Satanism" when affluent teenagers were arrested for digging up corpses, drinking cats’ blood, burning the Koran, and group sex.

On a more mundane level, more than 60 supplementary protocols on "normalization" with Israel have remained largely on paper. Powerful professional syndicates ban all contacts with Israelis.

The Rise of the Free Market

Egypt has gradually moved away from the socialism founded by President Gamal Abdel Nasser. The free-market reforms became bogged down in recent years, but privatization is now breathing new life. The government plans to sell its stakes in 120 companies, valued at $4 billion.

This year, Owen Corning agreed to build a factory on the outskirts of Cairo with Egyptian and Saudi partners. Four years ago, Corning had shelved the idea when they ran up against the government bureaucracy.

These changes are largely a matter of necessity. Egypt must create 500,000 jobs each year to keep up with its population explosion.

Despite the quickening pace of reform, there is still plenty of red tape to go around. McDonald’s, for example, found it had to approach a dozen competing agencies just to get a crate of buns through customs.

Overstaffing is common. A golf course superintendent from Florida found that it took a staff of 120 people to run a course outside Cairo.

Still, the private sector is on the rise. Atef Mohammed Ebeid, Egypt’s minister of public enterprise sector, has affirmed that privatization continue will continue in spite of any stall in the Mid-East peace talks: "We still have to do business. And business will be encouraged by a final peace settlement." The economy is expected grow by 6-7% a year under current plans.

The Have Nots

While Cairo celebrates its go-go days and the rise of free enterprise, a deepening contrast between prosperity and poverty is emerging. The economically backward southern region is being left far behind. Dissatisfaction is high and threatens the stability of the country. In the north, three people were killed recently in a protest against the end of rent controls.

Rent controls have been blamed for a severe housing shortage in Cairo. The most visible evidence of the shortage is the estimated one million squatters who inhabit the above-ground cemeteries known as the "City of the Dead."

One resident, complaining about gawking tourists, remarked, "Don’t they realize that living beside a grave is still better than living in it?"  

The Uncertain Role of Women

Some say that the free market has enhanced the role of women in the economy. A woman who supervises a quarry states, "There is now no business activity that is strange for women…We are capable of succeeding in all fields." Among developing nations, women do enjoy many rights in Egypt. They have had the right to vote since 1956. There are currently two women on the Egyptian cabinet.

Yet a contrasting picture also emerges. Egyptian human rights activist Marilyn Tadros claims that women "are going backwards" because of the Islamic revival. Although the government fights the more violent forms of Islam, it encourages the state-sanctioned variety. Many more women are wearing the clothes of religious observance.

Meanwhile, a court has overturned a government ban on female circumcision. (Muslim leaders disagree over the practice.) A recent circumcision lead to the death of an eleven-year-old girl.

There is also concern about acts of violence directed against women. Incidents have included cases in which enraged men have disfigured women by throwing sulfuric acid at them.


Egyptian Petroleum Production

According to Egypt's Business Information Center, the nation is well-situated for the processing of petroleum. When combined, the Middle East and North Africa possess 70% of the world’s proven oil preserves. Egypt encourages regional projects which "make the best use of the huge reserve in the region" and provide "value-added to oil. Egypt is well-situated for the processing of petroleum. products."

Egypt is actively encouraging outside investment and has proposed several specific projects for refining petroleum products. The proposals include financial incentives for their construction.

Training in Egypt

The US Consulate in Alexandria reported recently that Egypt is experiencing a boom in training. This is due to the privatization effort and the need for a "highly skilled and competitive workforce." The current need is only 30% filled. There is an increased interest among Arab and African countries to receive their training in Egypt. Americans and American training companies will probably fill much of the need.

A current major goal of the Egyptian government and business community is the expansion of existing vocational training centers. The following goals have also been promulgated:

  • Provision of quality training for workers and unemployed graduates;
  • Improvement of the technical training curriculum to match market demands locally and regionally;
  • Improvement in management skill training at the centers;
  • Additional focus on practical training as well as quality control and total quality management;
  • Defining an evaluation criteria to provide labor skills classification in accordance with international standards;
  • Establishment of accreditation licensing boards to provide certification and licenses for workers.

The Aramco Environment

Saudi Aramco’s Egyptian expansion is part of a slew of refining expansions and upgrades that is advancing in the Mideast.

Saudi Aramco is the world’s largest oil company with operations spanning the globe. The company began in 1933 as the result of an agreement between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Standard Oil Company of California. By 1980, the Saudi government had gradually acquired 100 per cent of Aramco stock. Saudis now occupy most of the management and technical positions in the company. It is now a vertically integrated company involved in all aspects of the oil industry. Some of the downstream operations are run in partnership with private companies.

Saudi Aramco operates several subsidiaries around the world and receives support from the Aramco Services Company in Houston. According to a company statement, the Aramco employees outside Saudi Arabia help to bring new technology into the Kingdom. These personnel include "instructors and training professionals for every aspect of plant operations and plant maintenance."

Recommended Strategies for the Training Environment:

  • Create an outreach program to train and hire a substantial number of people from rural areas. This is to counter the current impression that development only benefits people in cities. Pursue help from the Egyptian government.
  • Develop tactics for managing acts by extremists which might affect company operations.
  • Negotiate with Egyptian government to eliminate red tape that might affect training and the Egyptian takeover of the Aramco facilities.
  • Contract with the Cairo El Salyzan Institute Training Center for the training of workers in both technical and soft skill areas. Also, study feasibility of using regional training centers. Complete a substantial portion of the training prior to the beginning of refinery operations.
  • Determine the work group performance structure for the refinery. See that the work is divided up appropriately and that both under- and overstaffing are avoided.
  • Assess the likely interaction between the two sexes and, when appropriate, develop relevant training.




Our Vision:

A plant in Cairo fully operated
by Egyptians on July 1, 2015 !

Our Mission:

Our training mission is to enable Egyptians to fully operate the Cairo refinery. In doing so, we will work flawlessly with all stakeholders in a mutual effort to create jobs where none had existed.

Our Training Goals:

    • Select learners for training. Ensure economic, religious, ethnic, geographical, and sexual among those selected.
    • Determine the stakeholders in the training program and see that all stakeholders provide input toward the final results.
    • Conduct a needs assessment.
    • Determine performance gaps for which training is a remedy.
    • Determine the relative benefits of training and non-training solutions.
    • Create a system for keeping track of each individual's learning needs and achievements.
    • Determine the appropriate mix of training involving practical skills, quality control and total quality management.

Board of Advisors

A board of advisors will be created that will include the following stakeholders:

    • The vice president of operations.
    • The director of human resources development at Aramco Services Company in Houston.
    • A representative selected by the minister of Egypt’s Public Enterprise Sector.
    • A representative of Egypt’s Business Information Center.
    • A representative of the mainstream Islamic community.
    • Technical advisors from existing Aramco refining facilities.
    • Representatives of interested professional syndicates and other occupational groups.
    • Subject matter experts

Facilities, Leadership and Budget

The budget for the Cairo training is based on the following assumptions:

    • The total number of employees (including non-Egyptians on hand during the transition) is between 500 and 1000.
    • Egyptians will be trained and phased in gradually during the two year period.
    • We run a train-the-trainer program.
    • We have a library and conference budget.
    • A secretary assists the director of training.
    • We have one full-time instructional designer who also works as an instructor.
    • The refinery has technical experts who conduct training and report to the training department when they are needed.
    • We have one or two training specialist who take care of audio-visual materials, registration and record-keeping, and promotional services.
    • We send people to outside seminars and conferences; we buy training and services from venders and consultants.
    • We design and produce about half of our own courses.
    • We buy off-the-shelf courses and modify them.
    • We have one or two training classrooms.
    • We buy videos; we buy several VCR’s and TV’s.
    • We have at least one cubicle with a VCR to allow for independent study.
    • We have a PC. We install software for desktop publishing. We use the computer to create our own manuals, catalogues, newsletters, and promotional materials.
The Director of Training reports directly to the Vice President for Operations. The Director of Training will direct the training in Cairo while the Egyptian Training Programs are being created and while Egyptian personnel are trained to take over the refinery.

Facilities that are not available locally will be purchased through Aramco Services Company and shipped to Cairo.

The Cairo training facility is a budget item center. An annual budget of $950,000 is proposed.

Strategic Plan

    • The plant will start up with mostly non-Egyptian employees.
    • Managers and technicians from oversees will function as subject matter experts. They will conduct most of the front end analysis for technical training.
    • The design and development roles will be filled by both in-house training specialists and outside training companies.
    • Training will initially be implement by trainers from outside of Egypt; eventually, the Egyptians themselves will roll out most of the training at the refinery.
    • Evaluation will be designed by an evaluation team that will include subject matter experts, the director of training, and an instructional designer. When evaluating training by an outside vender, the vender will participate the design of the evaluation plan.


Each program will be evaluated according to the four levels described by Donald Kirkpatrick.

Level One: Reaction

This type of evaluation is simply to determine whether or not the participants liked the training. Nonetheless, there are specific things that we will be looking for. We will want to discover what the participants think about the following:

    • The knowledge of the trainer
    • The ability of the trainer to present the ideas of the program
    • The organization of the material
    • The sequence of the material
    • The trainer’s explanation of the most important concepts
    • The pace of the program
The participants will evaluate these areas on a simple scale of 1 to 5. Each evaluation will also include open-ended questions about (1) what the participant likes the most and (2) what the participant likes least.

Level Two: Learning

This type of evaluation is conducted at the end of each program. It is to determine whether participants actually learned the material in a program.

Whenever possible, this evaluation will be a simple written test. However, that will not always be appropriate. In many cases, we will need to test the ability to perform. In those cases, the evaluator will work with a subject matter expert and an the instructional designer to create criterion check lists. At the end of the training, the instructor will have a participant actually perform certain tasks. The instructor will rate the performance.

Level Three: Performance

The third level tests how much the learning translates into on-the-job performance. This can be assessed in several ways. Some of the methods include:

    • Surveys. These can be conducted over the phone, in person or by mail. They may be given to the trainee, the trainee’s supervisor, the trainee’s peers, or the trainee’s subordinates.
    • A performance contract. The trainee agrees to meet certain criteria by a certain time.
    • Observation of the worker by another party. A risk here is that the evaluation process itself may affect the performance.
    • Focus groups.
    • One-on-one interviews.
We will be seeking the following information about a person’s performance:
    • The occurrence, frequency, and duration of the behavior or performance.
    • The form the behavior or performance assumed.
    • The amount that the participant was involved.
    • The impact on job.
    • The resources expended to perform the new behavior
    • The success of the performance.
    • Any barriers that held back performance.

Level Four: Business Results

In some cases we will evaluate the effect that a program has on business results. This effort will be limited by the cost of a Level Four evaluation and the availability of relevant information. Before we can determine the value of training, we must first determine its cost. A form already available will help determine the cost of the training.

The value of training will be determined by comparing the training group to a control group. You can generally assume that if the productivity of the training group has increased more than the control group, the difference was caused by the training. The contribution that the training made to the business is the difference between the two groups minus the training costs.

Data Collection Strategy

Level One

A reaction evaluation will be conducted at the end of each course. The program evaluator will distribute the form while the instructor is not present. It will be a form created by the evaluator with an instructional designer and a subject matter expert.

The desired response rate is 90 %, but a response closer to 100% is likely under the circumstances. Success for the program requires that at least 80% of the students give a "good" (or higher) rating for the program as a whole.

Level Two

A test of learning follows. The test assesses the participants’ knowledge of the key learning objectives. The test instrument will be used after it has been certified as acceptable by the course development organization or instructional designer. The entire population of the training group will be asked to complete the test.

Each copy of the instrument will have its own number in small type at the bottom of the sheet. The participants will be assured that the data will be reported as a whole and not be connected to any individual. Test scores of 80% or better for 80% of the students will be necessary to prove a transfer of learning.

Level Three

For most courses, a behavior questionnaire will ascertain how well the learning from the program has been put into practice. It measures behavior according to the course objectives. 

The behavior evaluation instrument will have been certified as acceptable by the course designer and a subject matter expert.

Six months after training, participants will receive a Level Three questionnaire and complete it on the job. A response rate of 90% will be considered adequate for the evaluation.

Level Four

Any evaluation of business results will also be conducted six months after training. The business results of the training group will be compared to a control group of equal size. The control group (people who did not receive training) will be selected through simple random sampling.

Using available business records, the performance of the control group and training group will be compared for the same six-month period. The evaluation team will obtain commitment from upper management for access to the records.

A 0.05 level of significance will be necessary to attribute any difference to training. The cost of the training will be extrapolated from accounting records. It will include the cost of administering the program, the cost of participant time and expenses, the amount paid to the training provider, classroom and equipment costs, and the cost of evaluation. The contribution to business results will be determined by subtracting the cost of training from the value of training.

Evaluation Report Strategy

The following stakeholders will receive the evaluation report: The CEO, the Vice President of Operations and other company leadership, the Training Manager, the instructor, and any other interested stakeholders.

The report will include a front cover, an executive summary, the background of the program, a description of the evaluation procedures, and the evaluation results. The report will offer conclusions and recommendations. The main report will be followed by appendices. These will include the tests and data collection instruments, statistical summaries, and raw data.

The CEO and the company leadership will receive only the executive summaries with a cover letter. The main report will present data in frequency histograms. The executive summary will include frequency distribution charts for key evaluation questions.



Research Study #1: Technical Skills

Conduct a survey of to determine the technical skills which the Egyptians will need to operate the plant in Cairo. Separate surveys will ascertain the skills necessary for various jobs. The surveys will be completed at other Aramco refineries. The participants will be people in comparable positions. Supervisors of these individuals will receive a separate survey.

The survey will include both open-ended and closed-end questions. The survey forms will be field tested prior to widespread use.

The resulting data will by analyzed and reported to course designers, developers, subject matter experts. . The results will be described in detail and will be summarized in tables and charts. Whenever appropriate, the skills will be illustrated through diagrams, photographs, and samples.

Research Study #2: The Role of Women in the Workforce

This survey will be limited to women who have worked for a business or organization. It will attempt to determine the work-related problems of women at the socio-economic levels likely to be employed at the Cairo facility.

The survey will be conducted as face-to-face, one-on-one interviews, rather than as a written form. (Egypt’s literacy among women is only 38.8% compared to 63.6% for men.) The scope of the research will be on a limited scale unless government funds become available to broaden the research. The sole purpose of the study will be to determine what gender-related issues are likely to actually affect workplace performance.

Research Study #3: Workplace Productivity

Research will be conducted to determine whether certain tasks can be performed by fewer people.

The previously mentioned golf course required separate people to cut grass and to pick up and replace markers. The grass-cutter simply refused to do both. Look for an analogous situation in the Egyptian refinery industry--in a plant that is already run by Egyptians.

Establish a test group and a control group. Introduce work process reengineering to the test group. Compare the two groups after six months using pie charts and frequency histograms.

The Vasthead is the professional web site of
Grady McAllister of Houston, Texas.


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