The nation’s indefinite lockdown has opened a window for propane company staffs to bolster sales, marketing and safety training.
Although the federal government exempted propane marketers as an essential business, most retail operations were forced to close shop to prevent the spread of the coronavirus starting in March. States are independently weighing plans to reopen portions of commerce beginning in May, but a full return is not expected for months.
In the meantime, propane marketers have restricted personal contact in the office and assigned staff to work from home. For many, that extra time on their computers means opportunity to explore various training offerings through a new online learning platform launched by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC).
The Learning Center, which is located on the PERC website at
, provides central access to all online propane industry educational materials. Users can quickly access all training, certification, records, tests, and skill evaluations from their desktop computer, laptop, cellphone or tablet. Prior to its launch last July, most all PERC training was done in classrooms.
“As marketers adjust to doing business in these unique circumstances, we encourage them to use these free tools to keep their teams productive while working out of the office,” explains Bridget Kidd, PERC’s senior vice president of industry relations. “It’s a convenient way for them to explore new markets, sharpen their skills or add valuable safety training at no cost.”
More than 4,800 users from 1,600 companies have created accounts to access Learning Center training and related resources. The number of monthly users logging into the system jumped 20 percent from January through April, when it peaked at 1,912.
Users completed more than 5,400 sales training modules through April. Another 1,900 lessons are in progress.
The sales training is presented in two levels – for marketers who are new to the industry or new to marketing in the industry, and for those already experienced in marketing and sales. The curriculum includes videos, webinars, games, and more to accommodate a variety of learning styles.
Certified Employee Training Program (CETP) training and certification were added to the Learning Center in January. Already, about 2,500 users have registered to take smaller, customizable lessons designed to fit specific job tasks. Users completed almost 3,400 CETP training modules in the first quarter of 2020 – more than 60 percent of the total taken through all of 2019.
The Learning Center also offers a dozen segments of OSHA and DOT training. They include: Overview, hazardous communications requirements, hazmat general awareness, emergency planning, loading and unloading bobtails, transports and rail cars, commercial motor vehicle driver requirements, driving defensively, vehicle inspection, cylinder safety, materials of trade, security and hazardous materials.
Through April, more than 2,200 of those training modules were completed with another 374 in progress.
The Learning Center enables users to choose the courses and learning paths they want to take. Or, employers can customize and assign specific training and testing and track employee progress. The system also keeps records of all work done by users. Records for individual companies are not shared and are kept confidential to the administrators in that company.
The online training offerings are designed to enable employees to learn at their own pace while improving comprehension of materials. They also save companies the expense of sending employees to several days of classroom training and the lost productivity from being away.
Based on an average of 12,000 CETP certifications earned annually, the conversion from traditional to the digital platform projects to save the industry $1.5 million each year in costs of printed materials and certification fees.
“We’re committed to making workforce safety training and certification better, faster and cheaper,” explains Eric Kuster, PERC ‘s vice president of safety, training and compliance. “We recognize that today’s workforce learns differently than previous generations, so we are designing a more flexible system that better serves both current and future hires.”