Corporations and government agencies across the United States and around the world have been turning to learning management systems in order to deal with numerous learning challenges. From reaching large workforces spread across large geographic areas to ensuring the right people get the right training at the right time, an LMS can help the organization solve problems while reducing costs. For Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, the story is no different. Facing the challenges of a remotely distributed workforce that needs to keep up with government-mandated training, Alyeska turned to technology to help meet its needs.
Based in Anchorage, Alaska, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company maintains and operates the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), which transports crude oil across 800 miles of frozen landscape, including several mountain ranges and many rivers, to Valdez, the northernmost ice-free port in North America. Alyeska transports around 17 percent of the United States’ domestic crude oil production. About 1 million barrels of oil flow through the pipeline on a daily basis.
Understandably, Alyeska is challenged by the logistics of training a workforce that is spread across the 800-mile pipeline. And because the company runs one of the most heavily regulated pipelines in the world—the Department of Transportation, the Bureau of Land Management and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources are just a few of the agencies regulating the pipeline, it is imperative to track learners’ progress to ensure that they are meeting regulatory requirements.
According to Randi Sweet, training generalist at Alyeska, the company delivers several types of training to meet specific goals: technical, regulatory, developmental and company-directed. Technical training can range from training pipeline technicians on specific processes to computer skills training, she explained.
Tim Harvey, training director for Alyeska, added that the technical and regulatory training make up a great deal of the training Alyeska does. “There are about 10,000 different classes conducted just for regulatory training alone,” he said, explaining that the reason the number is so high is due to the fact that many employees must attend multiple regulatory training classes.
The developmental training at Alyeska deals with soft skills, according to Sweet. This includes interpersonal communication, leadership and teamwork. She added that from the company-initiative standpoint, there is a push underway to define competencies for supervisors and develop a learning program that will benefit the company.
Alyeska delivers all of this training to approximately 1,800 people, including around 900 employees, who are spread across the 800-mile pipeline. The only major city along the pipeline right-of-way is Fairbanks, but the pump stations where many of the employees work are quite remote, presenting a unique training challenge. “Obviously, one of our biggest challenges on this pipeline is logistics, because our pipeline is 800 miles long, and locations are remote,” said Harvey.
Alyeska chose to implement the Plateau learning management system (LMS) when it was upgrading its information technology assets. Using Plateau’s LMS, Alyeska can get customized training out to its employees and contractors across the 800-mile Trans Alaska Pipeline System. Using the LMS, Alyeska can provide distance learning for technicians at the pump stations, and can leverage those distance learning capabilities into a blended learning strategy.
“In addition to that particular system, we have been using IPTV, or Internet Protocol TV, to broadcast learning across the Web,” said Sweet. “It’s good for us because we can have so many people talking in a briefing style, using the presentation to get the information across.”
By integrating the LMS with some of its enterprise software applications, Alyeska has been able to improve security, management of its human resources and financial management. It also allows employees to work with managers to develop individualized learning plans based on the company’s needs and on the individual needs of each employee.
These integrations also allow Alyeska to ensure that it is complying with regulations by tracking the learning that each employee has been through and ensuring that each employee attends the necessary training to maintain compliance.
“The implementation of our training software has provided individual employees easy access to their histories, helping them manage their own learning and meet their certification requirements,” said Sweet. She added that the new system is much more user-friendly than the mainframe the company was using previously.
“If we’re not the most regulated pipeline in the world, we’re certainly one of the most regulated, and it’s helped us manage a lot of our regulatory oversights and so on,” said Harvey. As an example, Sweet cited the fact that Alyeska was able to meet more than 99.6 percent of all regulatory compliance training last year.
In addition to meeting existing requirements, Harvey explained that the LMS is helping Alyeska meet new requirements as well. With an upcoming audit on one of the latest requirements, he said, the LMS has helped Alyeska manage checklists of the things people need to qualify on in order to meet the new requirements.
“One of the biggest challenges we ran into with this particular qualification is qualifying our contractors,” Harvey said. Alyeska has been working with the National Center for Construction Education (NCCER) and the American Petroleum Institute (API) to develop an assessment and training program that addresses the standardization of training across the entire industry. This program will not only help ensure the safety of the pipelines, but it also will allow contractors to get qualified once through a single program rather than qualifying multiple times through the various companies that employ them.
Looking forward, Sweet said that Alyeska is working to finalize its distance learning strategy. Harvey added that the company is looking at a major reconfiguration of pipeline equipment, potentially going from pumps and turbines to electric drivers. “If this project moves forward, we’ll be doing that with all our pumps and turbines on the pipeline,” Harvey said. “So we have the job of identifying the competencies we want those technicians to have and the training required to do that. That’s going to be a significant challenge because the skill set for technicians could change 180 degrees.”
To read more about Alyeska’s use of Plateau’s LMS to spread its training across the 800-mile TAPS, read “Enterprise Training Is Trans-Alaska Pipeline’s Latest Safety Innovation” in the December 2002 issue of Pipeline & Gas Journal, online at www.pipelineandgasjournal.com.
Emily Hollis is associate editor for Chief Learning Officer Magazine. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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