All industries need ‘competent’ staff, and pipeline standards and regulations expect all staff in the pipeline industry to be competent. This is emphasized by a North American pipeline regulator stating in its report on a failure: ...the management of training and competency is particularly critical for an organization [operating pipelines]’.
Competence is a mix of skills, knowledge, and experience, and is obtained from training, mentoring, and experience. Consequently, industry knows how to develop competencies, but how can companies prove their staff are competent? Staff can attend the many training courses on offer, but how can the industry know these courses are the required quality, and that staff have acquired and absorbed the necessary skills/training?
This evidence and demonstration are major problems in the pipeline industry, and need urgent solutions. Fortunately, the industry can learn from academia, who have been providing demonstrable skills for centuries.
Most current industry training courses are presented by good trainers, using good materials, through good training providers. Unfortunately, most of these courses/trainers/organisers are not accredited by any reputable organisation, the materials are not quality assured, the necessary competence levels are neither specified nor defined, and there is no assessment to demonstrate understanding. This learning process may be good and delivered in good faith, but it is disorganised, unregulated, with no control or benchmarking, and no assessment. This leads to a lack of credibility.
Academia has a well-established, but relatively simple system to ensure its learning process is credible. It has: courses that are assessed to a specified learning level, with clear objectives, outcomes, and qualification requirements; materials that are independently quality assured; lecturers that are qualified to teach; and, an assessment, qualification, and certification process that demonstrates the student has acquired all the stated skills. This leads to credibility.
This paper assesses current training in the pipeline industry, and highlights the good points and bad points, and the deficiencies in the learning process, that prevent demonstrable competencies. It then describes how academia has a rigorous learning process that allows this demonstration.
The paper ends with a ‘way forward’ for the pipeline industry, in its goal of demonstrating competency in its workforce.