How a Competency System is helping fill a pipeline industry workforce gap

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Canada’s pipeline industry is facing a workforce gap. As baby boomer workers reach retirement age, the industry is losing experience and skills at a rate faster than they are being replaced. One of the biggest reasons for this is the fact that oil and gas is no longer seen as a desirable industry to work in because of climate change.

“Even as we transition to cleaner energy there is a broad recognition that you can’t just turn off the taps tomorrow,” said Reena Sahney, president of Jiva Consulting. “There is still a lot of infrastructure in the ground that needs to be maintained, but at the same time we have fewer people entering this industry.”

In order to ensure that the industry retains the competencies and skills needed to maintain high standards, the industry entered into an agreement with the Australian Pipelines and Gas Association (APGA) to adapt their Pipeline Engineer Competency System for use in Canada.

The Canadian Pipeline Competency System (CPCS) system consists of ~230 standards, each detailing the competencies required for a specific function within the lifecycle of a pipeline, including everything from operations and maintenance to damage prevention. Each standard is a document between two and five pages long and details all the theoretical knowledge, experience and expertise a person needs to carry out a key function needed to support a pipeline asset.

While the CPCS is not a training program, it is primarily focused on taking people that are already in the workforce, identifying where their competencies are appropriate for their role, and where there are training or skills gaps. It’s a way to ensure that the competencies within an organization are appropriate to do the work while supporting employees in their development by targeting the gaps with appropriate training and experience.

In order to adapt the system for use in Canada each document was thoroughly inspected and amended to reflect Canadian standards, legislation and best practices. The process was managed by Calgary consulting firm Jiva Consulting.

“We believe this system will help alleviate the skills shortage by helping organizations make the best use of the competencies their employees already have as well as support employee development more effectively in a targeted, efficient way,” said Sahney. “It could also ultimately contribute to greater retention because people will have a clear idea of what their career path in the industry could look like.”

The CPCS is currently being used by several Canadian transmission pipeline operators, but the intention is to roll the system out to service providers such as engineering companies and equipment manufacturers to achieve a broader adoption across the entire pipeline supply chain.

“I see this as being critical as part of a successful energy transition,” said Sahney. “We will continue to need the skillsets for a while, and the ability to identify and utilize skills already present within an organization more effectively will be a great benefit to organizations and their employees.”

To read about another program designed to help employees reach their full potential while maintaining the highest of standards, check out our blog post on the Practical Guide for Facility Inspectors.

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