We are excited to be collaborating with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and their vision to centralize the common elements of initial training programs for front line workers in the nuclear industry. In May, the EPRI Board of Directors approved a project plan to start a journey in creating a Common Initial Chemistry Training Program. The EPRI Common Initial Chemistry Training Program will be designed to support the common elements of training that exists across the industry today. The Common Initial Chemistry Training Program will continually be evaluated, revised, and improved to elevate the standard of the program in the future.
When explaining the vision for the project team, Lisa Edwards (EPRI Sr. Program Manager, Training) stated, “We will provide the nuclear industry with a standard initial training program that will deliver high quality content on a digital platform, leverage the best adult learning strategies, and use the latest innovative technologies to benefit the student experience.” She went on to say, “This program will not be your standard initial training program with just web access. New design methods will engage students’ interactions and leverage the ability for students to successfully progress at a faster rate.”
When researching the EPRI Initial Training Program, note several questions one may ask:
1 – “What are the design features of the EPRI Initial Training Program that set it apart from others?”
First, working with the current industry training groups, the project team is gathering existing training materials from across multiple sites, utilities, and fleets. This will allow the project team to leverage the best content available from the industry. The project team will evaluate methods of delivery on a digital platform: self-paced modules, student-to-student e-interaction, student-led assignments, and subject matter experts (SME)-led sessions online. The project team will leverage modern training technologies available today, while virtual reality laboratory instrument sessions will enhance the students learning experience.
2 – “Doesn’t the industry already have proven initial training programs?”
An industry survey was sent out to gain insights on the needs and benefits of this initiative. This analysis of the survey results revealed current obstacles the nuclear utilities and fleets face today in conducting their Initial Training Programs. It became apparent that several utilities have streamlined their training resources and are already facing challenges in providing their initial training when needed. Some common challenges that are being faced today include:
- Lack of available resources can delay the start date of an Initial Training class.
- In some cases, sites often borrow additional resources from other core groups to conduct Initial Training Classes.
- Updating the Initial Training learning Material can be de-prioritized due to the lack of line and training resources. This delay starting Initial Training classes as the program material often require revision prior to implementation.
- Execution of hiring strategies can delay implementation of Initial Training classes. Because sites/fleets may hire new candidates at different times, sites may defer starting an Initial Training class until they have hired the minimum number of students to run a common initial class.
- Scheduled and unscheduled outages, vacations, and sick leave can delay implementation of Initial Training classes.
- COVID-19 Pandemic Response has delayed the implementation of Initial Training classes.
As a result, the new EPRI Initial Training Program will relieve utilities from dedicating precious people resources to update and deliver the common training material. This will minimize the time span between the employee hire date and new hire Initial Training Program commencement. The concept is simple: hire when needed and immediately start the new hire in the EPRI Initial Training Program. The EPRI Initial Program material updates and material changes resulting from student feedback, will be made by EPRI with industry oversight. Also, newly hired individuals will be linked to other new hires through the digital platform, allowing them to engage with others going through the same learning process. This early career collaboration will help build lifelong industry relationships.
3 – “How will the quality of the program meet and maintain industry standards?”
First and foremost, the Systematic Approach to Training (SAT) is the foundation of the EPRI Common Initial Training Program. The program will be built using the VISION Developer software that is used around the industry to keep a solid SAT foundation in place from the start of the program and throughout the years of offerings. The project team is also engaging with the Institute Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) to help align the proper oversight needed to meet all additional industry standards in maintaining accredited programs. Finally, the project team is implementing Industry Working and Oversight Committees. These committees are designed to: engage the industry experience, provide on the design of the program, and make critical program decisions. Continued industry engagement with the program will ensure it is a world-class offering that can be extended to the global EPRI membership.
EPRI intends to complete the development of the chemistry initial training by the end of next year and ready for delivery in 2022. Radiation protection development will begin in 2021 and will be ready for delivery by early 2023. The maintenance disciplines will follow.