Tuesday, July 7 – PIPELINERS PODCAST – EPISODE 135 – BRIAN DRESEL AND MAYRA MAESE sponsored by Energy Worldnet
This week’s Pipeliners Podcast episode features first-time guest Brian Dresel of Black Hills Energy and Mayra Maese of Energy Worldnet (EWN) discussing how to tailor a pipeline training program to the specific needs and learning styles of pipeline professionals.
In this episode, you will learn about the evolution of training in the pipeline industry, the complexity and the steps to take when creating a tailored training program, and the importance of identifying AOCs when tailoring your pipeline training program.
You will also learn about the importance of being task-focused as opposed to regulation-focused when working in the control room and the importance of providing hands-on competency in training programs.
Russel Treat: Welcome to the Pipeliners Podcast, episode 135, sponsored by Energy Worldnet, a worldwide service provider to the oil and gas industry, making the world a safer place by providing pipeline operators and contractors innovative solutions for operator qualification, safety training, content authoring, and guidance as pipelines operate in compliance with PHMSA, OSHA, and other regulatory requirements. To learn more about Energy Worldnet, visit energyworldnet.com.
Announcer: The Pipeliners Podcast, where professionals, Bubba geeks, and industry insiders share their knowledge and experience about technology, projects, and pipeline operations. Now, your host, Russel Treat.
Russel: Thanks for listening to the Pipeliners Podcast. I appreciate you taking the time. To show that appreciation, we give away a customized YETI Tumbler to one listener each episode. This week our winner is Jeff Morton with Enterprise Products. Congratulations, Jeff, your YETI is on its way. To learn how you can win this prize pack, stick around ‘til the end of the episode.
This week, Brian Dresel with Black Hills Energy and Mayra Maese with Energy Worldnet join us to talk about tailoring a training program. Mayra, welcome back. Brian, welcome to the Pipeliners Podcast.
Brian Dresel: Thank you, Russel. Glad to be here.
Mayra Maese: Thank you, Russel, for having us.
Russel: If I could, let me ask you guys to each introduce yourself. Mayra, I’m going to ask you to go first because you’ve been here before. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into pipelining.
Mayra: Absolutely. My name is Mayra Maese. I’m the executive vice president at Energy Worldnet. My background with the energy industry started about 15 years ago in the production exploration side.
I was pretty much raised in the oil field. I got to work in it for about five years in the production exploration side before moving over to Energy Worldnet where we look more at the distribution, transmission, operations, and maintenance of the product already in the line.
Russel: Cool. Brian, same question for you. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into pipelining.
Brian: My name is Brian Dresel. I’m the Technical Training and Operator Qualification Manager for Black Hills Energy. I’ve been in the industry since 1990, when I went to work for a local gas distribution company in the Midwest.
What motivated me to get into the industry was that I was following in my stepfather’s footsteps. He started in the industry in 1959, and I got to follow along and work for the same company he did, so it was a family business.
Russel: Awesome. I’m just reflecting on the number of conversations I’ve had in the last few weeks. It seems like having family that was in energy is a pretty common way to end up in the energy business.
Brian: Yeah, I think it is.
Russel: I guess if you enjoy it because your parents were in it, and your parents think it’s a good thing that you get in it and it’s a good business.
Brian: I think so. People tend to think of firefighters and folks like that as people who follow in their parents’ footsteps, but we have that in the energy industry as well.
Russel: Yeah, absolutely.
Mayra: Yup, I would agree.
Russel: I asked you guys to come on to talk about tailoring training. What is a tailored training program? I think most people understand what tailoring is when it comes to a suit of clothes, but what is tailoring when it comes to a training program? Brian, why don’t you kick us off?
Brian: Sure. I think when the OQ rule first came about in our industry back in the early 2000s, there was a trend that started at that time toward making training more generic, so that it could apply to multiple companies and multiple operators out there.
In recent years, we’ve seen more of a push toward customized training. We all perform similar tasks, or maybe even the same tasks across the industry, but we do it in different ways. We do it with different procedures, different equipment, and every operator has unique characteristics to their system, to the way that they do things.
Tailoring training is really just taking those unique characteristics that every operator has and building them into your training program. You’re covering all of your equipment, your procedures, your unique characteristics, and that’s what we’ve done and other operators are doing across the industry.
Russel: I guess my follow-up question to that would be it seemed relatively straightforward to build a generic training program around, particularly, operator qualification because so many of the tasks are so similar across various operators.
But the level of effort to get to a tailored program, when you start talking about making it unique to their operations and their equipment, and their specific field practice, that sounds like a lot of work to me. Am I reading that correctly?
Brian: It’s definitely another layer of complexity because generic training is easy to do, but then it doesn’t really go into the detail that you need to do a proper job of training your employees and your contractors.
You really need to have customized training. That way you can go down those more obscure rabbit holes and things like that, where you’re covering all those things during training. If you don’t cover it during training, you’re not properly preparing your employees for what they’re going to see out there.
Mayra: Russel, definitely that is more work for sure. As you go into the customization of training itself, it’s going to take resources. It’s going to take time. Yes, it is more complex than just developing your generic type of training. Like Brian said, it is very unique to the operator in their specifications or requirements.
Russel: What’s the value of tailoring a training program? Why would I take on the additional effort to do it that way?
Brian: Russel, I could tell you from my experience, I have been in the industry for a long time on the operator side of the fence. I also worked for PHMSA. I conducted inspections for them for a while, and also became an instructor at the Training & Qualifications Center at Oklahoma City.
During inspections, whenever we’re talking to operators, if you’re not going to that extra level of training where you’re covering your unique characteristics of your system, and your procedures, and your equipment, you’re really not properly preparing your employees.
You really need to go to that next step, which is you can take a more generic training program and you can customize it. You can add to it. You really have to go to that level to ensure the safety of your employees, the safety of your customers. The operators that are doing that, they’re really doing what they need to be doing.
The ones that are relying on generic training, they’re not properly preparing their people. They’re not doing the right thing. Really, everybody should in some way, every operator should in some way, include that uniqueness based on their system into their training.
Russel: We’ve talked about this a little bit off-mic while we were getting things set up, and I put forward the idea around abnormal operating conditions. I said I think doing the generic training is easy when you start getting into the training for normal, I’m going to do a start up, or I’m going to pressure up a system, and here’s my sequence of tasks. That’s pretty easy.
It’s when you start looking at the AOC’s around that, that it gets a lot more complex. What would be yall’s take on that idea?
Brian: I think that’s exactly right. I’ve been asked from time to time, what is an AOC? What are AOCs? I can tell you in the most easy to understand terminology, an AOC is anything that can go wrong while you’re performing a task.
Operators need to identify those things that can go wrong, and then they need to train their employees so they can properly recognize them and react to them, and then they need to evaluate their employees to make sure they can properly recognize them and react to them.
Each operator is going to have different AOCs for their tasks, based on that uniqueness that we’ve talked about. It’s really critical to prepare your employees for those things that can go wrong. I can tell you, it’s a challenge also. How do you train people to perform something? How do you measure or evaluate their reaction to it without getting them hurt?
You can’t just start a fire to watch how somebody reacts to a fire. That’s been a big challenge in our industry. Fortunately, right now, the industry is moving more toward a good comfort level with things like virtual reality, augmented reality, other technology like that, where we can actually put someone in an environment where they can see the AOC occur around them.
They can react to it as if it’s actually occurring. That’s going to be a crucial next step in our industry, as far as making sure that we’re really adequately preparing our employees so that they know what it looks like, they know how to recognize it, and they know what the proper reaction is.
Russel: I think the aircraft industry is a really good example of this. Aircraft simulators as a way of training had been around for a very long time. They actually go all the way back to the early days of open-cockpit, dual-wing aircraft, when they had trainers that were basically ropes and pulleys. You would learn how to balance things by working the ropes and pulleys.
What you do today is you get into a simulator nowadays in a jet aircraft, and it’s very difficult to know the difference just by looking, between flying that and flying the real thing. That’s certainly I think, a good point. I think the other thing that you said, and it’s a mouthful, is the idea of what are all the AOCs?
In aircraft, they don’t spend a lot of time in the simulators training on normal flight. That’s all about training on the AOCs and getting that direct experience of those AOCs.
Mayra: Russel, I would like to add on to that as well. As Brian stated, the AOCs should be very unique to each specific task for that operator. One of the things that we’ve seen, in my position of being able to work with so many operators across the industry, both here in the U.S. as well as internationally, is the fact that they don’t really realize the importance of the AOCs to that level.
They have to be unique to each task, instead of perhaps they use a generic one for every single AOC. Those are some of the things that are very crucial for a training program, is to identify those unique AOCs per task.
Russel: Again, using the aircraft example, they originally started focusing on AOCs related to different airframes. Now they focus on AOCs related to different airports, and different weather conditions, and night or day. As those training programs mature, they get to more, and more, and more of those unique distinctions.
Brian: I think that’s really important. One of the things that we see in the industry regarding AOCs, is that there’s a temptation to have a really long laundry list of AOCs. That really doesn’t do the job, because you need to make sure that you’ve done an analysis of the task, and your AOCs are the appropriate ones for that task.
Don’t try to check the box and say, “We’ve got more AOCs than someone else,” or “we have 10 AOCs for this task.” It should be, “If there’s only two, but they’re the ones that are likely to occur during that task performance, those are your AOCs for that task.”
You’ve got to manage that process and not try to, “We’re going to cover everything that could happen.” A meteor could hit the gas meter. That’s pretty far out there. Stick to the realistic things that could happen while you’re performing that task.
Russel: I’m laughing about that idea about the meteor could hit the gas meter. [laughs]
Mayra: So am I. I’d like to see it. [laughs]
Russel: Just because you brought it up Brian, somebody somewhere…anyways. No, I think your points exactly are very well made. That is the challenge. The analysis around this, that is always the challenge. To do good analysis requires experience, it requires expertise, it requires competencies, and that is always a limited resource in any operator.
It’s always a limited resource. If you think of the Pipeline Safety Plan Do Check Act wheel, I can make my program better over time if I think of it as a program, not as a deliverable.
Brian: Operators should also not focus their attention on the regulation, as much as ‘what’s the right thing to do?’ Let’s not look at how we’re going to satisfy the regulation. Let’s just analyze these tasks, look for AOCs. What are the right things to do, right things to look for here, and not be regulation focused. Be more task-focused.
Russel: We try to do the same thing, in our work in the control room. We call that idea natural compliance, figuring out what the right thing to do is, and then make the system create the compliance records.
Russel: Again, it’s easy to say in a few words. It’s not easy to do, for sure.
Brian: If your goal is to exceed the regulations…because usually doing the right thing means you will exceed the regulations.
Russel: That’s right.
Brian: It’s pretty, pretty straightforward. If your goal is to do the minimum, regulations…we all know this. Everybody in our industry knows this. Regulations are minimum compliance, minimum guidelines. It’s a little more work to have a minimum compliance program than it is to have a do the right thing program.
Russel: That’s actually a great segue, Brian, for the next kind of line of questions I wanted to ask you. You actually did this at Black Hills. You talked about that in your introduction, about building a tailored course or tailored training for Black Hills. How did you approach that? When you first looked at that job and knew what you were after, how did you approach doing that?
Brian: That’s a great question. Really what we did, we had some existing training courses that from feedback, from employees, and supervisors, and managers, we understood these courses weren’t really hitting the mark, as far as they weren’t delivering what we needed it to deliver.
We wanted to start by redeveloping some of our existing training. We have plans to build new training in the future, but right now we’re in a redevelopment mode. We looked at the material and we had — it was very text-heavy; classroom-heavy material — with very little activities in performance parts to the training.
We knew we needed to redevelop the material. We didn’t have an internal instructional design team, because we’re an energy company. We’re not an education company. We reached out to Energy Worldnet, to talk to them about their education team, what they could possibly do for us.
We partnered with them, and they had the education resources we needed, the instructional design professionals. We went through the whole process from the very beginning. We identified the course objectives, identified lesson objectives, and then built on each of those objectives.
We set a target of 60 percent activities and performance to 40 percent classroom, where before the course that we had was an entry-level course. It was probably 90 percent classroom and 10 percent hands-on, which is not ideal. We achieved that goal of 60 percent hands-on, 40 percent classroom, which is great.
We got good results from our feedbacks, surveys of our students. We also changed the assessment methods. Now the students are assessed at 60 percent performance activity, and 40 percent knowledge. It’s been a great fit for us because we had good material, we just didn’t have it in the right format, to where it was educational quality material.
There’s a rule that helped us to get it there. That was really important for us. The folks that were training…That’s the big key. You have to know your audience. You have to know who you’re training. Folks who are training are people who do things with their hands. They’re performance people. They’re not sitting in an office cubicle all day kind of people. They get out and do things.
Whenever we shifted the course to more performance, that really met their needs, and also took a lot of pressure off of the students. Instead of having a knowledge test on the last day of the course that they may or may not pass, there are assessments every day throughout this course.
It’s a four-day, entry-level course. It’s not a really long course. It’s just one week. There are assessments every day. Every activity is assessed, so they can go through this course. There’s no pressure of a huge test at the end. There are several small assessments. The whole thing worked out really well for us.
Russel: I think that the point that you’re making about the training being more hands-on and less classroom is so important. I have some background myself in measurement training and providing hands-on measurement training.
What you find, particularly with the guys that are green — the new guys — is that it’s one thing to sit in a classroom and talk about how to blow down a meter tube and to take a meter apart, inspect it and make any repairs or perform any maintenance, and put it all back together.
It’s one thing to be able to take a test about that. It’s another thing to be able to do it on the bench. It’s quite another when you walk out and you crack a relief on a 325 pound gas line. [laughs] That, experientially, is a different thing.
You’re talking about people who are actually going to be out there cracking those reliefs. They need experience doing it, not just thinking about it or talking about it, or doing it on the bench. Building that in, what was required in order to get that hands-on aspect into your training? What did y’all end up having to do?
Brian: The first thing we had to do was kind of a mindset change. That’s something that we’ve been working on in our group. We’re doing instructor development and things like that.
We had to make sure that all of our team understood that standing in front of a group of people in a classroom and reading procedures or reading slides to them, that’s not training. That’s reading to someone.
We had to get our instructors trained to the point where they understand the way that people learn is by doing. You can give them training in a classroom, but then at some point, you have to take them out and show them how it’s done — hands-on — and then you have to let them do it. That’s how people learn, when they connect all those dots in their mind.
Really, that was one of the biggest things, which is making sure that we all understood how learning actually takes place. Now that we understand that, we are looking at all of our other training that we do. How can we make this more hands-on, more interactive? We know that people are going to learn by doing.
Russel: I can certainly tell some personal stories about that. I’m a guy who’s a very visual learner. There’s something about putting your hands on it that causes that learning to stay with you in a different way, for sure.
Mayra: You’re absolutely right, Russel. Looking at the program that we worked on with Black Hills, and what we do in our process in working with operators is taking that blended approach of where it’s not just a computer-based training that you do on a computer or a classroom-based training where somebody’s reading to you.
It’s really doing a lot of the analysis of who your audience is and what the learning styles is of each person that you’re teaching to. Like you stated, you’re a visual learner. I’m a visual learner as well. I have to see it.
We have auditory learners, kinesthetic learners as well. Being able to blend all of that together is extremely important in a training program when we’re developing it. Likewise for the trainers, the process that Brian was going through with his instructors and trainers.
What we’ve seen a lot of operators that develop training do is they may have an individual that has 20 years’ experience out in the field, and then they decide, “You know what? You’ve been an expert at this. Come over here and start training,” when they know nothing about training at all, or how to be an instructor, so teaching them the different training styles, as well as culture.
Culture becomes extremely important to have buy-in, and that comes from the top to the bottom. That’s one of the great things about Black Hills that they’ve been able to accomplish is having the good culture to be able to teach their instructors to be able to teach their employees.
Russel: That’s actually where I wanted to go next in the conversation is to talk a little bit about, it’s one thing to build a training program that you’re going to deliver. It’s quite another thing to build a training program that equips others to deliver that training.
Maybe you guys could talk to me a little bit about, what were those challenges, and what did you have to do to address those challenges?
Brian: Yeah, I can start with that one. In some of our previous training, we had situations where if one instructor taught a topic, it was a 20-minute class. If another co-instructor or another member of the team taught that topic, it was an hour and a half class.
That tells you right there, we’ve got some consistency issues. It should be the same material being covered. Maybe in a little bit different ways, because we don’t script our instructors, of course. We want them to talk about their experiences, but we also want to provide a consistent learning experience for our students, our employees.
What we did was we took this material and Energy Worldnet helped us to set this up. We took this material. We have slide presentations, of course. We have videos. We have all kinds of great interactive things we can do — polls, questions, quizzes, and everything else. We built these instructor guides and participant guides, and Energy Worldnet did that for us.
The instructor guide has a lot of notes in there. I may have a great story about a situation that I dealt with years ago that’s really applicable to this section of the training that we’re going through. I tell that story when I’m teaching the class.
If someone else is teaching the class, they don’t tell that story, because it’s not their story. We took those stories and those kind of learning experiences that we’ve had over the years. We put those in the instructor guide.
The person who’s teaching the class isn’t saying, “I was there, and I saw this.” They’re saying, “This is a situation that happened, and here’s what was learned from it.” We could take those experiences and kind of memorialize them into our training material, which added a lot to the material, and also added to the consistency.
Now everybody gets to hear about that good learning experience that we had. Trying to have really detailed materials through our instructor guide, our student guide, that really helped us to get to a good level of consistency.
Russel: Mayra, anything to add to that?
Mayra: I think Brian ended that just right, consistency. Consistency is key when developing a training program that’s customized to an operator. There has to be a lot of structure within it, and that structure has to fit around the operator’s business, who they are and what they do. That’s going to change from operator to operator.
As we’re developing these programs to be taught by others — because we’re not necessarily teaching those — is really getting to know the organization, getting to know the operator, their beliefs, their culture so that we can build that frame around, “This is what the training is going to align with; your mission, your vision statement.”
It’s not necessarily just about, “Okay, let’s just develop this content, and here you go.” There really is a lot of moving parts with this.
Russel: I think it’s interesting. I think everybody has kind of a preconceived idea of what training is, but there is a very big difference — and Brian said this earlier about standing up in front of a room and broadcasting information — versus walking out of a room feeling equipped to actually go do that job.
Russel: [laughs] Those are very different things, right?
Mayra: You’re correct. [laughs]
Russel: The other thing is to do that in a way that it’s retained, and I can talk about this from a measurement perspective.
One of the challenges in measurement is all people doing the same task over and over again, over time, what they’re doing will change. It will be very slow and imperceptible, but it will change. Oftentimes, for people who have been doing a task for a period of time, they actually need to go back and get retrained.
One, they need to remember the context for why we do it in a particular way, and that tends to get lost pretty quick. The other thing is, they need to check what they’re doing against the process that we’re training to, and those things change, too. Technology changes, and our knowledge about processes changes. Those things change.
How do you go back to folks, bring them back in, and keep that consistency around task execution and that competency consistent across the organization as it lives and breathes?
Mayra: I’ll talk about what our process is in the development of the curriculum for other operators to use, and that’ll change from operator to operator, so Brian can give us some insight on how they are using it.
For the measurement, we use a lot of empirical-based research. Using the Kirkpatrick Model is one of the greatest tools that we have, that we continue to use to be able to do that. You’re right, Russel. With time, they begin to change that, and they begin to fall into bad habits or just, “I know it so much, I may be actually skipping a step here, because I found a shortcut.”
Not only are you looking at the reaction and the learning, but we also have to go back and look at that behavior over time, so after six months, after a year, “Are you still doing what we taught you to do?” That’s our basis, is the model we use to capture that over time, is the Kirkpatrick Model.
Russel: What is the Kirkpatrick Model? Tell us about that a little bit, and I’m going to ask you to send me a link, if you would. I want to drop that into the show notes and get it on the website for people that might be interested in learning more about it.
Mayra: The Kirkpatrick Model was developed back in 1959. What it does, it has four major steps to it.
The first step is the reaction, and the reaction is where you measure how the individual likes the training. It’s how did that training make them feel? Did they like it? Did they not like it, and why? You begin to measure that type of feedback from that level.
The next level is the learning. How do you measure that what they learned was effective to what they are needing to perform out in the field.
The third level is the behavior. That’s where it comes in at the different measurement intervals, whether that’s at three months, at six months, at a year. Is what they learned during that training and during the hands-on portion of it, are they still doing it the way you taught them out in the field, and they’re not going back into bad habits?
Then you have your results, where you look at it as an overall ROI on your organization. After this training program, what ROI did we see? You should see your ROI increase, because your employees are then more equipped.
They’re knowledgeable. They know why they’re doing what they’re doing. You begin to see less incidents and accidents occur out there because of that learned behavior that has been taught to them to do it correctly.
Russel: Yeah, less wear and tear on equipment, and other factors that have a direct economic benefit.
Mayra: You’re right.
Russel: Yeah, interesting. I’d like to ask Brian is as you set about to do this program, I know you probably had a pretty good idea of what you were going out to do. Really, this is for Brian and Mayra. What did you learn that you didn’t anticipate going into the process?
Brian: Well, that’s a good question. We planned this. We had a lot of communication. We talked about it between our team and the Energy Worldnet team, so we didn’t really have very much that we thought that was unexpected that happened.
When we started this, we had a really unrealistic time frame, a really short time frame that we wanted to try to meet, and we actually met the time frame, the Energy Worldnet folks. I think it was a two months or three months’ time frame.
And so, we figured out that we can take our existing materials that are maybe not the greatest materials and we can put them into a really nice, professional, educational institution quality format in a relatively short amount of time. And that’s nice news for us going forward because we have nine more courses that we plan to develop.
Brian: Didn’t really have any surprises other than the fact that if you get the right people together, and everybody’s focused on accomplishing the same task, this can really happen pretty quickly. The speed of it was probably the only thing that surprised us in a very good way.
Russel: I’m going to say what I think I hear you saying, Brian. I’ll just ask if I’m hearing it correctly, but it sounds to me like there was a lot more value in your existing training materials than what you realized.
Brian: Yeah, there was. We knew we had accurate materials, and we had the bones in there of what we needed to have in the new course. So we validated the material and made sure that everything was current, accurate, and worthwhile.
And that’s served as the basis for the new course for Basic Gas Operations, our previous course. We just took that and then built it into something much better.
Russel: Great. Anything to add to that, Mayra?
Mayra: Well, I’ll just say we’ve been doing this for quite a long time, developing training programs. And so, one of the things that we do see across the board, for Black Hills, they were very prepared.
But I think a lot of operators don’t realize the amount of time that’s going to go into it. So expectations of, “Well, we need to have this done within X amount of time,” that may be possible if you have everything in place. But then they realize, “Oh, I actually need resources. I need trained instructors. I need people that understand training itself.”
There’s a lot of other things, the small, little things that people don’t realize that go into play when you’re developing a training curriculum. It’s not just, “Let’s just write a course today and go.”
Russel: Yeah, it’s always easy if you don’t enough about it.
Russel: I’m going to try and wrap all this conversation up, as I frequently do at the end of an episode and say, what are my key takeaways from doing a tailored training program? I think one of the key takeaways is whatever you have is probably providing some value and provides a good starting point.
I think the other key takeaway is what we’re really trying to do is build the hands-on competency, not the intellectual knowledge. You need both, but really the primary outcome we’re looking for is the hands-on competency.
Then I think the last key takeaway here is that tailoring is important, particularly when you start trying to get people ready for the AOCs they might see, in order that they would be prepared to respond effectively. I think that’s my key takeaway. What do you guys think? How did I do?
Brian: That’s great.
Mayra: You did great.
Brian: Yeah, I think you covered it.
Russel: All right. Brian, Mayra, thanks for being on the podcast. This has been awesome, and I hope to have you back in the future.
Brian: Thanks very much, Russel. It’s been a pleasure.
Mayra: Yes, Russel, thank you very much. It has been a pleasure.
Russel: I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode of the Pipeliners Podcast and our conversation with Brian and Mayra. Just a reminder before you go, you should register to win our customized, Pipeliners Podcast YETI Tumbler. Simply visit pipelinerspodcast.com/win to enter yourself in the drawing.
If you would like to support the podcast, the best way to do that is to leave us a review. You can do that on Apple Podcast, Google Play, or whatever app you use on your smart device to listen. You can find instructions at pipelinerspodcast.com.
Russel: If you have ideas, questions, or topics you’d be interested in, please let me know on the Contact Us page at pipelinerspodcast.com, or reach out to me on LinkedIn. Thanks for listening. Talk to you next week.
Transcription by CastingWords