IUOE/PLCA National Pipeline Training Program
Faced with a noticeable drop-off in pipeline work in the early 1990s and a corresponding loss of skilled pipeline operators retiring or leaving the industry, the International Union of Operating Engineers and the Pipe Line Contractors Association established the National Pipeline Training Fund to replenish and expand the depleted skilled work force in anticipation of an eventual resurgence in pipeline work.
Actual training began in 1993 with four classes, even though work was still slow and the demand low for pipeline operators. Nevertheless, the training continued and gradually expanded through the years.
Today, with the pipeline industry experiencing the biggest boom ever in the U. S., the IUOE/PLCA program offers a greatly increased number of classes in an effort to supply PLCA contractors with well-trained personnel in the many different aspects of the pipeline industry so they can meet the needs of their gas and oil company clients.
The program conducted 36 classes in the 2007-08 season, with another 33 scheduled for 2008-09 in an effort to bolster the supply of skilled operators even more.
The different classes are tailored to teach the specific techniques of the cross-country pipeline construction industry to heavy equipment operators working in the more traditional aspects of the construction industry. The classes start in November and run through May. This takes advantage of what is normally the off season in the construction industry. Applications for the training programs are available at local IUOE training centers.
The program offers classes for the excavator, side boom or angle dozer. Each three-week program runs 6 days a week, 10 hours a day. This program covers all the crews, starting with the clearing through the restoration process. In addition, there are one-week bending and engineering classes and one-week rock drilling classes available.
Starting in the 2008-2009 training season, one week of the three-week excavator class will be dedicated to hoe-vac. While winching has always been taught during the three- week angle dozer class, a new addition to the program is a one-week, specialized winching class.
There are IUOE training centers throughout the U. S., some of which possess geographic features that are utilized for specific types of training. Vendors such as CRC-Evans, Vacuworx, Dynapad, and Ozzie’s Pipeline Padders have donated the use of equipment for specialized classes. Cranesmart has donated an LMI (load monitoring indicator) to the program that will be installed on one of the Cat 561 pipe layers. LMIs are the latest technology in safety aids available to operators.
A safety program covering the specific hazards of the pipeline industry is taught throughout each training class. For the purposes of DOT Operator Qualification, a training program specific to the covered tasks of IUOE members working on the pipeline has been developed by the fund.
The program’s dedicated, knowledgeable instructors are its greatest asset. Many of them are, or have been, veteran pipeline operators and foremen for pipeline contractors, bringing an added understanding to industry needs. These professional pipeliners bring to their instructors’ roles knowledge gleaned through experience that is not found in a book or any other resource.
Using the latest multimedia technology, instructors are able to convey information more clearly to the students, who use the same multimedia techniques to learn in a more timely fashion. Once the students arrive on the spreads with knowledge on how to approach a particular task correctly, it’s a matter of refining the process on the right-of-way that makes them productive hands.
In order to effectively train so many individuals, the program purchased eight angle dozers, eight excavators, eight side booms, and a bending machine in 2005 and 2006. CRC-Evans and PipeLine Machinery – CAT assisted the program by offering a very competitive price on this large purchase of equipment.
The logistics involved with this huge undertaking, including equipment transportation, student lodging, meals and personnel transportation, cost millions of dollars. In an effort to keep costs somewhat manageable, the program notes well in advance those areas throughout the U. S. where upcoming jobs are scheduled and the IUOE sets up training sites in relatively close proximity.
Participants in the training program have filled high-profile jobs, such as setting in pipe, bending, grade tractor, winching to tie-in hoe operators and some have even become foremen. The Bending \ Engineering classes have produced numerous new bending machine operators and engineers.
The success of this joint pipeline training program would not be possible if it weren’t for the dedication and cooperative commitment between the IUOE/ PLCA members.