PERC adopts latest educational strategies

July 3, 2020 By    

The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) hosted a webinar in mid-April to introduce the guiding principles behind changes to the industry’s educational programs, as well as PERC’s latest priorities as it rolls out the new Certified Employee Training Program (CETP).

Photo by LP Gas staff

Breakout groups, led by PERC’s Emily Wood, discuss curriculum updates at the National Safety & Trainer’s Conference in January. Photo by LP Gas staff

In 2019, PERC restructured its safety, education, and compliance team to facilitate development of educational materials. It also assumed ownership of CETP certification from the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) and is updating that program over the next several years.

PERC’s efforts represent a “strategic approach to industry education,” explains Eric Kuster, vice president of safety, education and compliance, during the webinar.

“I use the word ‘education’ and not ‘training’ because really education becomes all inclusive; it covers a variety of topics; it’s not just workforce training,” he adds.

This inclusive approach – which Kuster also described as “integrated” and “comprehensive” – addresses compliance programs, sales training, emergency response education, consumer education and other initiatives, in addition to traditional CETP training. It aims not only to increase the number of users in the retail propane industry but also to extend outreach to partner industries such as autogas, agriculture, commercial and industrial partners.

“As we start to increase where propane is used throughout the country, and the ways propane is used … we’ve got to have educational and training programs that really support those different programs and opportunities for us,” says Kuster.

A renewed focus on career development opportunities through ongoing educational programs aims to attract employees to the industry and encourage them to stay for the long term.

“We’re providing education and training for careers, not just technical training for a one-time use,” says Kuster.

CETP training will be a major component of the registered apprenticeship program approved earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Labor and administered by NPGA, explains Kuster. Apprenticeship registration will be available to service technicians and drivers of bobtails, transports and utility/service vehicles, and the program will be tracked through PERC’s Learning Center.

PERC is also working to integrate industry educational programs into community college and vocational-technical curriculums to introduce students unfamiliar with the propane industry to career opportunities and the benefits of the fuel. It also plans to educate primary and high school students about the environmental benefits of propane.

CETP updates

Changes to the CETP curriculum should result in better, faster and less expensive education for industry employees, says Lyndon Rickards, director of safety and compliance.

For instance, the old CETP program tested for facts such as the boiling point of propane – minus 44 degrees F – whereas the new program emphasizes applied knowledge that will better serve employees on the job.

“They may remember that number, and that number is important, but the theory behind it and to understand exactly what happens to cause that product to boil is more important,” explains Rickards.

Modularization of the CETP curriculum will help to improve the quality of education, as breaking the material into smaller, digestible units improves comprehension and engagement, says Rickards.

Modules also allow marketers and state associations to customize employee education to their specific needs, saving time and money. An employee can train on concepts directly aligned with job tasks instead of wasting time on tasks the employee may never perform. This targeted education strategy allows employees to become productive sooner, says Rickards.

The availability of the programs on more devices such as tablets and smartphones also adds flexibility for marketers and employees.

The Learning Center serves as a central location to house the new CETP courses and all industry education materials online. The customizable platform allows marketers to assign training to individual employees, track progress and keep records, among other capabilities. One possible use would be to track frequently missed questions to identify gaps in operations, explains Chris Hanson, Learning Center administrator.

PERC has prioritized development of the new CETP modules, and each one will become available on the Learning Center as it’s completed. All current online CETP courses, certification programs, blended learning courses and online exams will be available through 2020.

New in 2020

  • Bobtail delivery program
  • Comprehensive compliance program
  • CSR training program emphasizing sales and safety
  • Dispensing Propane Safely updated program
  • HVAC/plumber full training curriculum
  • Industrial/Commercial Consumer Safety booklet
  • Introduction to the Propane Industry and Fundamentals of Propane courses, based on the current Basic Principles and Practices course

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