Bridging the education gap

In my previous column, I focussed on the Networking pillar of the IICA vision statement's three key planks.

Here, I take a closer look at the Education pillar. To some, it might seem to be a pretty obvious activity. After all, the core business activity of most professional not-for-profit organisations is centred on professional development education. So why devote an article to such a topic?

In today's accelerating rate of technological change, it is simply career suicide for anyone not to invest in their continuing professional development. The IICA does offer a wide range of educational opportunities. I want to focus on just two of them here.

The first is the IICA's sole licence in Australia, to offer the International Society of Automation's (ISA) suite of professional development courses which are very highly regarded.

Each is taught by ISA accredited local presenters and the courses have also been tailored to ensure that Australian Standards are cited parallel to the American ones. The courses are offered across the major cities in Australia.

The second area is somewhat different from the traditional offering of courses. The IICA believes it is more than just anecdotal that areas of technology experiencing the most rapid change are mining, oil & gas and other such industries.

The rapid evolution in these sectors has a lot to do with advances in automation, instrumentation and control systems. We also believe that such changes will only accelerate and industries will need personnel who are able to manage and thrive in such environments.

Our concern is that a vast majority of Universities and TAFEs have not been as far-sighted as they ought to in recognising, and more importantly, addressing this phenomenon. The concern is that Australia will not produce enough graduates of the type that will be keenly sought after by industry because of their leading-edge knowledge.

Worse still, companies will increasingly hire professionals from other countries which provide exactly the level of education that industry seeks.

Our Institute sees this as a major issue and is working on a number of fronts to attract attention. Firstly, we are working hard to publicise and draw attention in as many avenues as we can, about the lack of sufficient focus on instrumentation and control systems within the tertiary sectors.

Secondly, we are endeavouring to gain access to the various TAFE curriculum content decision-making committees. The aim is to have voices on those committees that will provide a balance to the heavily electrical bias of the content of most of the current TAFE courses in our areas of interest.

Clearly this is an enormous challenge for a body like ours, and yes, it can be quite daunting. But then again, our commitment is strong and I am convinced that in the end our concerns will be seen and addressed.

[Brett Simpson is President IICA.]

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