Our Story

The Origins of Damage Prevention Academy

 min read
August 11, 2022

Much like superheroes, all companies have an origin story. This is ours.

Damage Prevention Academy was founded by Jay Stephens in 2015. But the roots of DPA go much deeper than that. In fact, the beginnings of the company can be traced all the way back to Jay’s dad.

Our story starts with John Stephens Sr. He graduated from university as an electrical engineer and immediately went to work at a company called Calgary Power (later known as TransAlta Utilities), a large power generation and distribution corporation.

As a young engineer, John worked on major projects like hydroelectric power generation and transmission. He oversaw crews installing utilities and power lines.

Unfortunately, this line of work doesn’t come without risks. While he was in the field, John was a witness to numerous accidents. Many of them resulted in injuries to crew members or damages to utilities. John came to understand that each of these incidents had one thing in common: they all could have been prevented.

As he climbed the corporate ladder, John became increasingly passionate about utility protection and damage prevention. Eventually, that passion led him to serve as one of the first utility leaders on the board of directors of Alberta One-Call. (That’s the province’s primary damage prevention agency—the Canadian equivalent of an 811 center in the USA.)

Now let’s circle back to Jay.

Jay grew up listening to his dad talk about damage prevention and traveling with him to industry conferences all over North America. It took a while for Jay to get there, but he would eventually become a second-generation damage prevention ambassador.

Before DPA, Jay started a number of other businesses. Some of them were reasonably successful, and others…well, we won’t worry about those. Suffice to say, there were a few misfires early on in his entrepreneurial career. 

Jay studied electronics engineering at a technical college, until he dropped out. From there, he went on to work in a wide variety of industries, including landscaping, construction, customer service, sales, technology, and oil and gas.

Most of those different jobs seemed completely unrelated to one another. But in reality, they were all leading him towards what would become his biggest success yet. 

Back in 2014, Jay was working as a certified ground disturbance instructor. In that role, he traveled around Alberta training oilfield workers about safe excavation practices around critical utilities like oil and gas pipelines. This training took place in classrooms, in construction trailers, and on worksites. It was costly and time-consuming for everyone involved. Jay had to charge high fees per employee just to cover the cost of the training materials and travel expenses. 

It was even more expensive for the companies. They had to pay their employees for their time spent in training sessions, which lasted a full day—and that, of course, meant those employees weren’t out in the field doing their valuable work.

By 2015, Jay realized there had to be a better way. 

He saw that there was a clear need to make this training more accessible, more affordable, and, therefore, more effective. So he decided to convert his training into an online format.

At the time Damage Prevention Academy was launched, it was the only online provider of damage prevention training. Shortly afterward, it became the very first online training company to be certified by the Gold Shovel Standard. 

DPA’s first partnership was with Texas 811. Fast forward to 2022, and our courses have been deployed across states and provinces in three different countries: Canada, the United States, and Australia.

Today, DPA has 14 employees. That includes administrators, LMS experts, creative writers and brand storytellers, instructional designers, eLearning developers, motion graphics professionals, social media consultants, application programmers, photographers and videographers, and even virtual reality specialists. 

Our team hails from countries all over the world, including Colombia, Poland, Serbia, India, the UK, and Italy, as well as Canada and the USA. 

We now partner with numerous 811 centers, state regulators, damage prevention organizations, and private corporations to provide training resources to people in all areas of the damage prevention industry. These resources help ensure that excavators digging around buried utilities go home safely to their families at the end of every work day.

Ultimately, that’s what the DPA mission is all about.