The Society for Automation, Instrumentation, Mechatronics and Control (SAIMC) has announced that its trust fund will be introduced to the instrumentation and control sector this year, which is among other initiatives being developed by the society for the coming years.
“The trust fund is being implemented to drive change in education in the sector and is being developed on the same basis as the well-known and established National Tooling Initiative Programme,” SAIMC director and CEO Johan Maartens explains.
It will be funded by broad-based black economic-empowerment contributions and funds will be allocated through bursaries to successful applicants.
The trust fund aims to provide bursaries for Mechatronics (which includes studies in factory automation, process automation and mechatronic devices) university students so that they can study new technologies at applicable education institutions.
These institutions should be willing to adopt their curriculum to address the shortage of skills required in the factory automation, process automation and mechatronic devices industry.
The fund will also be complemented by a competition – the objective of which is to ignite interest and creativity in students. The competition requires that students develop solutions required by industry without extensively using off-the-shelf products.
Maartens points out that the trust fund and student competition are only two of the many initiatives being spearheaded by the SAIMC to help build the sector over the next few years.
“The SAIMC also has established an online communication platform, where councils within the sector, end-users, suppliers, educators and government can openly discuss the issues of South Africa’s automation and new technologies industry.”
He enthuses that the three councils that will engage in the platform are the End-User Advisory Council, the Supplier Advisory Council and the Education Advisory Council, all of which will have a role to play within the sector.
Online video conferencing will enable the three councils to address the various issues within their respective realms. Subsequently, all issues and solutions will allow for collaborative information-sharing in the sector.
Maartens says some of the proposed talking points are how the Automation Federation job descriptions compare to the requirements of South Africa’s industry, and to what extent the industry can use the Automation Federation’s competency model in South Africa.
Additional issues that could be addressed over time include whether new entrants to the labour market have the right skills to survive and thrive amid the ever-changing technologies that feature in the automation and new technologies sector.
The councils also plan to discuss what changes certification bodies, such as the Engineering Council of South Africa, will have to consider to use new-generation technology.