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December 18, 2017 Issue



Q&A with Hannon McLeod, CEO of Atlas API Training, LLC. providing Online Courses and Exam Prep for API, AWS CWI, NDT, QC, Inspection Certification in Upstream, Midstream, and Downstream Petro Chemical and Power Industries




Hannon McLeod

Chief Executive Officer

Atlas API Training, LLC.



Hannon McLeod


Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – December 18, 2017


CEOCFO: Mr. McLeod, what was the vision when you started Atlas API Training LLC. in 2014?

Mr. McLeod: My vision was to provide cost effective training in an online format so that it would be more convenient for anyone to learn. With the types of certifications that we teach, a lot of people who require these certifications work up to six and seven days a week, twelve and thirteen hours a day. We are able to provide a course in which students can actually take advantage of their time off, instead of going to a five to ten day class. Also, trying to cram all this information into a short amount of time can be very stressful. Students can best prepare themselves for the exams at their own pace, which has provided a much more convenient platform. It also saves them a ton of money, because they will not have to take the time off at work, which could be very costly including travel and other costs.


CEOCFO: How as the vision developed? What is happening today at Atlas API?

Mr. McLeod: We have steadily added to our online course. Our courses are requested all over the world, because people live in remote areas, and/or do not want or are unable to travel. As we continue to grow we are expanding the number of countries where we sell courses and we are proud to say that we have prepared students in over 30 countries.


CEOCFO: What goes into creating an API exam prep course; both the content and the logistics of getting in and out of the system and the engagement portion?

Mr. McLeod: Our instructor has been teaching these type of courses since 1990 when the API 510 was first introduced. As a matter of fact, he may have been the first to teach the public course in Houston. We have quizzes built in at the end of the presentations and other resource material is available to download for use with the practice exams. Our instructor, that does voice over on these PowerPoints is able to make the difficult seem easy and that is what sets our courses apart from the others. He takes you through the PowerPoint presentation just like if you were in a classroom setting. Many people will just read the material, but our instructor explains the material in a way that is easily understood. Students work at their own pace, with the convenience of starting and stopping when and where they would like. If the student has any questions, they can send an email to the instructor who will respond within 24-48 hours. We place the PowerPoint presentations on a learning management system which makes it convenient for the customer, and as soon as a course is purchased online you can get started right away.


CEOCFO: Is the assumption that people using the courses have basic understanding of the equipment and the material and they are just moving forward or are you able to address people that might be new to what they are doing and looking at?

Mr. McLeod: This is not always true.  I have a couple of engineers that have taken the course just to educate themselves, but as a general rule, the people that take these courses are taking the certification exam. You need to have experience in the field to qualify to take the certification exam. The qualifications are education and years of experience but if you do not have enough education, you can have more experience. The topics are generally ones that are familiar, but there is much more detail in what they are taking. That is because these courses or these exams are extremely difficult. We have a very high pass rate. That is just a testament to the effectiveness of the online training.


CEOCFO: Would you give us an example of one of the courses and what the voice over and your format might point out that more static courses might miss?

Mr. McLeod: One portion of the API courses covers welding procedures, welding procedure certification, and procedure qualification records. Our API instructor, OT Lewis, breaks down the information in a way that it is much easier to process and understand compared to other courses. This is a point that many people have problems with, because it is something they do not get much experience with in the field. The methodology and the way he breaks it down step by step, is just eye opening. Also, if a student already understands that part of the material then they can just move-on or back up and repeat the material if they are having trouble understanding something. The instructor describes the course material while the student is looking at about one hundred and fifty slides covering the material. He breaks everything down word for word and explains how these documents are put together, why they are put together, and what are essential and non-essential variables in these documents.


CEOCFO: Who creates the courses? Who creates the certification and is it the same in every state? Is it the same in different countries?

Mr. McLeod: The API is the American Petroleum Institute. The types of certification exams that we prepare students for are all given by the API. They are recognized worldwide in the petro-chemical and chemical industries for these certifications. These cover pressure vessels, pressure vessel inspectors, pressure piping inspectors, and storage tank inspectors. The API is, “the go to” for that certification and they do conduct exams all over the world. Currently they do it with the Prometric testing system. Our CWI course, on the other hand, is the American Welding Society. The American Welding Society is recognized worldwide. However, there are a couple of other competitors that they have; the Canadian Welding Bureau and the CSWIP, which is a UK based welding certification with multiple levels. However, the American Welding Society is recognized worldwide, as well as the API.


CEOCFO: Do the certifications change often? Do they change as there is new equipment and new technology? How do you stay ahead of what you might need to change in a course?

Mr. McLeod: The different certified bodies will change material. The material will be updated every couple of years in the API material. They always have listed on their website, “Body of Knowledge”. This body of knowledge tells you what will be covered on the exam. When they change this body of knowledge there is also the effectivity sheet. The effectivity sheet tells what version of the code books and standards that will be used on this exam. By that, if it is an updated version, we will go in and update the presentation to reflect any updates in the material. They have to be updated every year, year and a half or two years. There is always one or two documents that will be updated. The CWI does not change that often, but it does change.


CEOCFO: Does the macro environment have an effect on people that are taking courses on the petroleum side?

Mr. McLeod: It does, to a degree, but not as much as you may think. That is because these certifications are designed for quality assurance. The people that take these certifications assure the equipment is in proper working order and the inspections are kept up to date. They insure that the refinery is running properly and the equipment is going to run correctly and that there will be no issues and no failures. Whether the oil prices are high or low, the refinery will still run. Now, it will affect some of the courses on the upstream side, the drilling, and the pipeline side. However, as far as the downstream side, which would be refineries or chemical plants; it does not change. With our API 1169, it is a pipeline inspection course and that definitely affects it. The pipeline industry is down right now, not completely stopped, but it is down compared to what it was a few years ago.


CEOCFO: Does the student pay for the course themselves or might the company pick up the course for them?

Mr. McLeod: That varies. We have a couple of inspection companies that pay for their students. We have special rates if they are buying in volume and they are buying multiple courses. However, many times it is the student themselves that are paying for the course. The individual really appreciates the fact that we are so competitive pricewise when it is coming out of their own pocket and they really appreciate the value they are getting for their money.


CEOCFO: Are most students looking for a non-travel alternative or do people still think it needs to be in a classroom type of setting?

Mr. McLeod: That varies. You get people that just jump at the chance to take it online. In fact, that is the whole reason I started the school. I could not find a good alternative online course. For myself, I would much rather have taken it online, instead I had to go pay to go sit in a classroom and do it at their pace as opposed to my own pace. However, most of the time when students come here assuming that they are better hands on they find out that this is a much better alternative as long as the student has the discipline to do the work. We have a most excellent pass record.


CEOCFO: How do you reach out? How do people find out about Atlas API?

Mr. McLeod: We advertise on the American Welding Society’s website. I run ads on LinkedIn, Facebook, we do press releases and we also have a newsletter that goes out on a monthly basis to inform students of new things we have to offer. We have a promotion going right now. It is our third anniversary, so we are offering three free courses that we are going to draw from the names in our newsletter mailing list. We are drawing them on the seventeenth.


CEOCFO: How do you decide when to add a course? What are your criteria?

Mr. McLeod: We just look for a need. If there is a need for a particular type of course then we will add it. I have access to many instructors that are friends or acquaintances that instruct different courses. I will reach out to one that does a particular type of course if there is a need and we will work on it and put it up. Developing a course can take several months. I was working on that CWI course for about six and one half months. It is quite an ordeal to get it completely developed and up in our online platform.


CEOCFO: Are there courses that do not get the traction you would expect?

Mr. McLeod: No Ma’am. When I crunch the numbers I know about what traction we should get and everything has worked out so far and has fallen right in line. It just depends on how popular that certification exam is and that is just it.


CEOCFO: What surprised up as the company has evolved and prospered?

Mr. McLeod: I am not really sure, to be honest with you. I don’t know that anything really surprised me. It has been a steady progression, forward and upward.


CEOCFO: What is next for Atlas API?

Mr. McLeod: I am really excited about our new CWI course. CWI is a Certified Welding Inspector course. There is a bigger need for it than all the other courses combined. I am really looking forward to getting some feedback on the newly developed course to see how well students like it and what kind of test results they get as well. I am really optimistic about what kind of feedback we will get back. I put in a great deal of time and I think it is one of the best options in the world for a student, and the most cost effective. We have over thirty five hundred quiz questions built into the course, so that students taking that particular course will be very familiar with what they will run into on the exam. That applies to our other API courses as well. We always include a great deal of quiz questions just like the ones on the exam, so they are familiar with what they are going to see on the exam. 


CEOCFO: Why should people choose Atlas API Training LLC?

Mr. McLeod: It is about quality, cost, and convenience. We have high quality courses at a great value for your money and the online platform is the most convenient way possible to prepare for exams.


“It is about quality, cost, and convenience. We have high quality courses at a great value for your money and the online platform is the most convenient way possible to prepare for exams.”- Hannon McLeod


Atlas API Training, LLC.



Hannon McLeod







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