The world has undergone a huge change in the past two years with millions of people working from home, as offices temporarily closed. Home working, virtual meetings, virtual teams, and virtual management are expected to continue in the future, as workers embrace both the challenges and advantages of this ‘new world’.

The rapid adoption of digital technologies has transformed the workplace and business, and all aspects of business must adapt to this transformation, including learning and development. This is not a simple switch — current learning and development strategies are still mainly based on in-person training courses, or a management’s view of needs, which is usually based on past experience. As business processes and practices change, and they have changed fundamentally in the past two years, the way of learning has to change, which means an urgent switch to on-line, as already witnessed in schools and universities.

Staff in the pipeline industry particularly need continuous learning and development, as pipeline standards and regulations specifically require staff to be both competent and qualified in the tasks they perform. Indeed, the American Petroleum Institute’s recommended practice API 1173 states: ‘The pipeline operator shall ensure that personnel... have an appropriate level of competence in terms of education, training, knowledge, and experience.’.

Competence, education, training, knowledge, and experience are clearly pre-requisites for pipeline staff, but now these requirements need to be delivered in an increasingly virtual world. The good news is that both on-line learning and virtual competence development are available for pipeline staff, and this paper presents a complete competency development model and process in pipeline integrity engineering, that can be delivered virtually, on-demand. The model has been tested in pipeline operators, and is both independently certified and accredited. It is a ‘world’s first’, and available now.

The paper outlines the virtual competency development model in pipeline integrity engineering, with its detail being in previous papers at IPC 2016, 2018, and 2020. The paper focuses on: the model’s recent certification (by the certification body, CERTivation) and accreditation (by the American National Standards Institute’s National Accreditation Board (ANAB)); the new learning guides needed to assist staff in the learning process; and, the new competency assessment procedures that have been developed to show that staff completing the process have reached a high standard.

These assessment procedures are reported, and involve examinations, designed by subject matter experts, assessed using methods such as the Angoff method, and audited by psychometricians. Assessment can be by on-line ‘proctoring’ (supervision by both an individual and software to ensure a secure and reliable outcome) at any time or location.

The paper also introduces a learning platform that contains learning content needed to meet pipeline engineering competencies. The internet-based learning platform offers e-learns in various formats, allowing bespoke, on-demand learning. This is important as we need to make learning more a part of our day-to-day jobs, and the ‘learning while working’ fits into our new remote world. The learning platform is used by nearly 3000 members, and both their use and their learning preferences are analysed to determine both what the users want and need.

Finally, the implementation of the competency development model in pipeline operating companies is summarised, with the operators’ views and conclusions.

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