Artisans are receiving training on cyberphysical systems, which are hallmarks of modern industrial systems and are becoming commonplace in industry to prepare for employment in Industry 4.0 companies, says Colliery Training College (CTC) MD Johan Venter.
For example, virtual reality training is being used to train artisans to use computer-numeric control systems to weld and safely work in coal mine operations, exposing them to emerging operational environments.
Artisans are trained on all the usual skills required in industries – welding and cutting, as well as diesel and electrical engine mechanics – but modern artisans must also be taught how to connect the items that are installed or maintained to the Internet of Things (IoT), explains Venter.
Part of modern artisan training will be the electronics and computer science skills required for IoT systems, he adds.
“The artisan training starts with a simple, low-cost IoT application that we developed. It will be expanded to include other technologies commercially available in real-life applications – not training applications,” he says.
The next step for CTC will be to partner with vendors of commercially available technologies so that those technologies can also be taught to and used by artisans.
However, the qualifications approved by the Quality Council for Trade and Occupations and the National Artisan Moderation Body are based on old curricula; thus, all training providers are still training artisans for older industrial roles, which will not support their long-term career development.
“To counter this, we decided to identify the emerging technologies and skills that modern artisans will require and ensure that they get as much training on these as possible so that their skills remain relevant. We have started with our IoT basic training module and we want to partner with original-equipment manufacturers to incorporate their technologies in our training.”
Further, Venter points to the reskilling of existing personnel as a key function to ensure that artisans also develop their skills over their careers and increase the value they provide for companies.
He emphasises that on-the-job training is fundamental to the development of highly skilled artisans, and constitutes 75% of an artisan’s training time. The technical and theoretical training provided by CTC constitutes only 25% of training.
“An artisan’s training is only as good as the on-the-job part – only then is the artisan ready to qualify. The experience obtained after formally qualifying is more valuable than the qualification,” highlights Venter.
“My message to employers: Be serious about the on-the-job phase of artisan training and have a formal system in place that ensures that logbooks are properly interrogated by subject matter experts, and not only signed off for the sake of getting to the trade test.”
Employers should also be responsible for determining when a learner is ready to go for the trade test, which is when the apprentice is deemed competent enough by his supervisors to run a shift, he adds.
“Employers drive changes. Therefore, CTC urges employers to liaise with us on the changed training needs of your employees and learners. “We work with other companies in dealing with similar situations and we can help you to address your needs,” Venter concludes.