Stuart Flatow is stepping down, saying goodbye to PERC

April 23, 2019 By    
The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) held the National Safety & Trainer’s Conference in January in San Antonio. LP Gas attended the event and captured this photo of PERC’s Elena Scott, left, Stuart Flatow and Courtney Gendron. Soon after the event, Flatow announced he was stepping down as the vice president of safety and training. Photo by Joelle Harms

Photo by Joelle Harms

The vote was 19-2. The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) had just agreed to spend $6 million to advance safety in the propane industry with CETP e-learning.

It was unprecedented funding aimed at reducing the barriers propane companies faced to providing technical training to their workers.

The year was 2004. It wasn’t an easy decision.

I stood at the lectern addressing the council for nearly two hours on the benefits of initiating a strategic shift in the way the industry receives and provides technical training. In the end, the council overwhelmingly agreed to fund CETP e-learning.

But not everyone in the propane industry was on board. Its critics were vocal:

  • “It will be the end of CETP certification and classroom training as we know it.”
  • “Six million dollars down a rathole.”
  • “If you do this, people will die.”

But we persevered.

A little less than three years later, my colleague Courtney Gendron, PERC’s senior CETP manager, and I presented CETP e-learning to a standing-room-only crowd at the 2007 NPGA Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo.

They loved it.

That same year, at another trade show, more than 100 propane professionals stood in line at the PERC booth to get their free CETP e-learning DVD.

Today, CETP is available online and has been used to train thousands of propane professionals. Naysayers became advocates of e-learning.

As I look back on my tenure at PERC, I smile with satisfaction because our work made a difference.

Through PERC, the propane industry now enjoys a suite of world-class consumer safety materials. Consumer focus groups recently gushed about how the materials made them feel good about the propane industry and feel better about using propane. That made all of us feel pretty good, too.

Coordinating with state associations, we hosted conferences that brought together thousands of propane professionals and first responders to learn how to work together to resolve propane incidents. I even suited up and experienced live-fire training.

We established the first formal propane autogas technician training curriculum and hands-on course. It was another professionally fulfilling event that I would have never experienced if not for PERC.

Recently, I started thinking it was time for new blood and fresh ideas in PERC’s safety and training program. This was never just a paycheck for me but a career filled with inspiration and gratification. A thought kept creeping into my head: A real pro knows when it’s time to leave the field.

So, after a successful 2019 National Safety & Trainer’s Conference in January in San Antonio, I decided to step down from PERC, feeling fulfilled, proud and happy.

The industry has changed much since I joined PERC in 2000. From what I see, it will continue to, and for the better.

More and more propane professionals are realizing safety is not just for the safety guy. A company-wide commitment to safety can help marketers win new customers and hold onto the ones they already have.

A PERC-funded learning management system, or LMS, will be developed to increase marketer abilities for online and blended learning, symbolizing the next strategic shift in providing technical workforce training.

I owe a debt of gratitude to mentors and friends such as Roy Willis, Joe Rose, Doug Auxier, John Kamps, Walter Cressman, Larry Dombrowski, John Hansen, Dennis Cruise, Jeff Shaffer, Lyndon Rickards, Chris Wagner, Mike Caldarera, Bruce Swiecicki, Rick Roldan and the late David Lugar, as well as all of my colleagues at PERC and the volunteers who helped us create such great products.

PERC is in excellent hands. It continues to focus on growing the industry so that it may thrive for future generations of propane professionals and consumers.

I thank you all for this extraordinary opportunity and wish you and the ones you love the best of everything.

Stuart Flatow was the former vice president of safety and training for the Propane Education & Research Council.

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