The Argument for a Qualification Standard for your Power Plant

A well-developed and managed qualification standard (qualification program) is essential to ensuring safe and efficient operations of any power plant. The need for an investment in training is all the more important in this current environment of reduced training budgets, trying to do more with fewer people, and ever-evolving plant technologies.


The development of a “qualification standard” for power plant operators is a key component. Especially in meeting a plant’s specific training needs.  There are many ways to create and institute such a standard. And there are many existing ones available from which to begin. These include standards at the state level, the federal level, and various organizations within the power generation industry. A good resource is EPRI’s Qualification Standards for Power Plant Operators –  However, a qualification standard created specifically for the operators of that organization or plant will enhance any particular power plant or fleet of power plants that organization or plant.

A qualification standard provides a power plant with a resource and guide to develop a site-specific power plant operator qualification program.  The qualification standard describes a training program structure that combines a variety of training methods that prepares operators for qualification.

Building Blocks of Qualification Standard

So, what should go into the qualification standard? While the methods used to perform and document qualifications vary, experts agree that at a minimum, a qualification program consists of:

  • Clear Objectives
  • Fundamental/Basic Skills Training
  • Systems and Operations Knowledge
  • On-the-Job Training
  • Validation/Testing
  • Retention of records

Steps to a Qualification Standard

In order for these components to be effective, they have to be clearly defined, relevant to the job task and graded to a standard that is understood by both the trainee and the trainer(s).  The steps to ensure job relevancy are:

  1. First, the trainee must have the basic knowledge, skills, and ability (KSA). The KSAs are developed through analysis of the Operator’s job tasks and form the foundation of the objectives of the program.  Knowledge and skills training are readily adapted to a self-study program, which might include computer-based training (CBT) or structured reading of training materials, including system descriptions (discussed next).
  2. System descriptions are explicitly written for a plant’s equipment and will be the foundation of the plant’s customized training system. Often, these system descriptions are outdated due to equipment replacement, setpoint changes, etc.  Therefore, the plant’s system descriptions should be updated to reflect the current plant status and operating parameters.
  3. Structured OJT is a critical component of the training program. A structured OJT defines the job position tasks, identifies needed resources, states what the trainee will perform, and maps the training methods and evaluations that ensure success. Structured OJT applies knowledge and skill to required job tasks. Furthermore, this component of the training system requires contact between the trainer and trainee.
  4. Qualification measures the operator’s ability to use the acquired knowledge and skills to perform critical job tasks correctly. Power plant operators must possess the ability to perform routine tasks as well as manage crisis situations. Several knowledge- and performance-based methods are in place to assess operator knowledge, skill, and ability. Moreover, each method addresses a specific facet of human performance.


Once a qualification standard is developed and a training and qualification program is in place, the program should be evaluated to confirm program design success and to identify opportunities to improve the training and qualification program.  Refresher training requirements should also be identified during the evaluation of the program.