Portage College to create first Pipeline Training Facility
Portage College continues to innovate, this time by creating Alberta’s first Pipeline Training Facility.
Based in Boyle near Portage’s Heavy Equipment Operator site, the pipeline facility will offer a wide range of pipeline related training—everything from construction, maintenance, rigging, installation, safety, as well as regulatory and environmental concerns. Stuart Leitch, director of the college’s Community & Industry Training Initiatives program, said the pipeline program is a unique and exciting new collaboration between Portage and the oil and gas sector.
“We did the research and saw there was no concise pipeline training course in western Canada,” Leitch said. “And we’re partnering with industry to help fill that void.”
The course is scheduled to be available in its complete form by next fall, although some portions of the program, including safety tickets and environmental course studies, will be offered this September. The program will coexist with the HEO site, with the pipeline students learning some construction skills with the available Heavy Equipment Operator Simulator Trailer.
And the college is planning to build a dedicated pipeline training facility in Boyle, with construction scheduled for next summer. The facility is planned to include a pipeline control room, which could simulate the closed-loop scenarios graduates would likely encounter out in the field.
Like many of Portage’s other offerings, Leitch said the pipeline-training course has a strong partnership with northern Alberta’s industry—which means that graduates will be highly employable, since oil and gas companies work with the school to develop the program curriculum. He said the college wants to produce well-educated entry-level pipeline workers to fill some of the thousands of positions created by the booming oil and gas industry.
“The pipeline industry is crucial to Alberta’s economic prosperity. Portage College’s Pipeline Training Centre will be built, designed and operated in partnership with the many companies forming the industry,” said Portage College President Dr. Trent Keough in a press release. “The Pipeline Centre will also allow for research and fee-for-service opportunities where companies can do their own training on site. Alberta needs this facility and the industry needs skilled workers.”
Leitch said the program is holistic, meaning it looks at all areas concerning pipelines—not just giving a basic overview and some safety tickets. Considering the high profile given to the three recent pipeline spills in Alberta, and the resulting independent review of pipeline infrastructure promised by the government, it’s not surprising that Portage College is working environmental concerns and safety heavily into their pipeline program.
“One of our phases will focus on the environmental side of pipeline operation,” Leitch said. “And safety will be a huge component: we’ll be talking about the potential damages from spills—like how a spill interacts with water and the soil.”
Leitch said he anticipates the pipeline-training course to initially offer a one-year certification. Eventually he said the college hopes to offer a three-year applied degree.
The Pipeline Training Facility is the most recent of Portage College’s innovations meant to meet the growing demand of the oil and gas sector: earlier this year, they announced they would be offering the first SAGD Operator course. And the college is also looking to do groundbreaking work with water management with their Water Resources Training Centre.
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