Dan Carrocci uses drilling knowledge, geological skills and entrepreneurial spirit to make Determination Drilling a success

Dan Carrocci (centre) with third-semester Fleming College Drilling students.
Dan Carrocci (centre) with third-semester Fleming College Drilling students.

With a business plan and a diploma in hand, Dan Carrocci was only 21 years old when he walked into a bank to request a loan. The Fleming College graduate needed the money to purchase a geotechnical drilling rig to start his own drilling business, Determination Drilling.

“I saw a demand for it,” said Dan, who graduated from both the Resources Drilling and Blasting Technician (2003) and Geological Technician (2005) programs at Fleming’s School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences. “I could combine both worlds; I know how to drill and I know what’s in the ground. I went into the bank with my business plan and they seemed to realize the demand as well.”

With the goal of one day being a full-service drilling contractor, Dan purchased the rig and hired one employee. 14 years later, Determination Drilling is now a full-service drilling company that specializes in environmental, geotechnical, water well, geothermal, hydro power, solar, wind, and mining/exploration drilling with 22 employees and growing.

And that first rig Dan purchased at 21 years old is still in use, along with 10 geotechnical drill rigs, seven solar rigs, one water well drill, and many other small portable rigs for limited access projects.

“We’ve had sustainable growth,” said Dan on Determination Drilling’s success. “And by being so diverse we haven’t been at the mercy of economic downturns. When one industry goes down, another goes up; when mining is down, the geotechnical side is up as a result of government infrastructure spending, for example.”

Determination Drilling has travelled across Canada for thousands of drilling projects, including exploration drilling of kimberlite pipes in James Bay, diamond core drilling of iron ore in Newfoundland and Labrador, mining and infrastructure projects in Nunavut, geotechnical drilling on the 400 series highways in Ontario, and more.

Dan on the job holding rock core
Dan Carrocci, pictured here holding rock core

“What I love is that it’s challenging. Nothing is easy, you have to wear many hats. You have to be a mechanic, a geologist, a weatherman, and a little bit of everything to make it work. There are long hours and long days, there’s cold and heat…,” said Dan. “It’s a huge accomplishment when you defy all odds and make the impossible happen.  We have a team of dedicated, smart and determined operators that are the key to Determination Drilling’s success– teamwork makes the dream work!”

One of Dan’s favourite work experiences is drilling in Bathurst Inlet, Nunavut, where he takes a two-hour helicopter ride over the Arctic Circle in – 60 degree weather to get to the job site. “It was like the ultimate camping trip…with wolverines,” said Dan.

He also enjoys taking breaks to bond with staff, which includes bringing them hot chocolate and barbequing on the site. “I want my employees happy,” he said. “It’s a tough job and I’m proud of the way they represent our company. We’re all best friends and look out for each other like a big family.”

75% of Determination Drilling staff are Fleming College graduates, mainly from the Resources Drilling Technician and Heavy Equipment Operator programs. He credits the college as being a very valuable hiring resource.

“These teachers should be working at NASA and they stay on top of the industry” – Dan Carrocci on Fleming College faculty

“They graduate with the fundamentals, tooling identification, very strong safety knowledge; and usually have their DZ license, which saves me as an employer from having to pay for it,” said Dan. “Their instructors are excellent. I see Brian Gerry (Earth Resources Technician Co-op program coordinator) and Steve Wilkinson (Resources Drilling Technician program coordinator) at the PDAC every year working on their own dime to keep up-to-date with current technologies and industry trends. These teachers should be working at NASA and they stay on top of the industry. They deserve a lot more credit; without their passion for the industry, where would we be? I certainly would not have the same quality of drillers, and I might not have even become a driller at all without their leadership.”

As a safety advocate, Dan truly appreciates Fleming’s emphasis on safe working practices. Every employee at Determination Drilling is educated in drilling safety practices, and has First Aid/CPR training and common core training. Dan also delivers safety presentations in North America, Australia and England, and in 2009 he hosted a safety conference at Frost Campus and invited drilling managers from around the world.

“For the International Drilling Safety Conference, Fleming provided a venue for that,” said Dan, who is thankful for the strong network he has at Fleming. “I can always call my college professors for help when I’m in need of advice or direction.”

One day, Dan said, perhaps he’ll be the one at the front of the classroom… but only as a guest speaker to share his experiences with the next generation of drillers. Dan still enjoys being out in the field learning every day and loves the adventure, plus – he added – it’s tough to get dirty in a classroom.

From Fashion to Drilling, Rachel Bourne changes direction for job prospects

rachel-bourne-2Rachel Bourne will be graduating in June from the Resources Drilling Technician program– and she’s already working in her field!

Rachel, from Courtice, Ontario, had a goal of studying fashion at university when a comment she heard while attending a Fleming recruitment presentation at her high school made her change direction.

“When I heard how the Resources Drilling program is only available at Fleming College, grads are in extremely high demand and it pays very well, that caught my attention. I thought, ‘when I’m done, I’ll have a job,’” said Rachel.

Rachel did some research and decided to start with the Blasting Techniques program, which can be a pathway to Resources Drilling.

“I decided to spend a year in Blasting to see how it went and, if I liked it, I’d stay for the next year of Resources Drilling,” said Rachel.

One of only a few women in the class, Rachel didn’t let that stop her. “I’m assertive enough and I found that if you show the guys how you want to be treated, they respond well,” she added.

Rachel became Blasting Techniques Program President on the Frost Campus Student Association and found it a great way to make connections. She continued on to take Resources Drilling. “The program is really interesting and fun. There’s so many machines to work with and it’s really cool to have teachers who are from the industry. When they demonstrate how to do something it’s like an art to them,” she said.

rachel-bourne-blogRachel found that drilling is really creative work, there’s a variety of career directions to choose from, and lots of opportunity. “You have to problem-solve challenges, like how to manoeuvre this equipment that is worth thousands of dollars, going by feel and sound to drill hundreds of feet down. You may be drilling rock samples, doing environmental or geotechnical drilling, or for construction on big infrastructure projects where drilling is needed at the start of every job,” she said.

Rachel believes that there’s a need for more women in this industry and companies that are committed to diversity, but she recognizes that there is still bias that drilling is “a man’s world.” Not one to back down from a challenge, she’s out to prove that statement wrong.

Rachel was elected President of the Frost Student Association in her final year, and that leadership experience will serve her well. Her advice to other women considering the program is: “Don’t be afraid to do something just because it’s something men have always done.” She found it easy to get involved at Frost Campus because of its small size and recommends taking full advantage of that.  “Stay strong while you’re here, get help when you need it, and get connected,” Rachel advised.

Rachel was hired by Aardvark Drilling in Guelph, where she had done her field placement during the program. She’s happy that she’s being recognized for her hard work and not just because of her gender. “It’s a great starting point,” she said. “I’m doing geotechnical and environmental drilling, and taking a lot of my experience from the program with me.”