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Opinion: The skill drill

There has been an ongoing theme running between the pages of PACE these past few months, and this is the theme of ‘education’: who has it, who wants it, and who is supplying it.

When it comes to process and control engineering and its many industries, education is a pivotal requirement across the board allowing engineers to gain accreditation, land new jobs, offer technical support, or develop new products and solutions.

But the fact remains: though there is plenty of support for engineers who seek to further their skill-sets after they have entered the workforce (see my editorial column from last month), there is a relatively small offering of TAFEs and universities providing the initial training required by workers entering the process control, process automation and process instrumentation fields.

The Government’s National Skills Needs List (NSNL) has been targeted as one contributor to the lack of process instrumentation training in Australia; last year, the NSNL did not recognise process instrumentation as a vocation in its own right, but instead it was lumped with instrumentation, which includes instrument-makers and -electricians.

We all know that process instrumentation technicians require separate skills from electricians, but sadly, if a vocation is not recognised on the NSNL, then the Government will not give that industry a grant to build more education facilities to train more up-and-comers.

Take the situation in Tasmania, for example. There is only one facility in the whole state, The Skills Institute (TSI — Burnie campus), providing training in the industrial process instrumentation field. TSI offers Certificate III in Instrumentation and Control.

Similarly, in New South Wales, the Petersham Instrument School (part of the Sydney Institute of TAFE) operates the only hands-on process instrumentation course in the whole of Australia, meaning if technicians want to get some hands-on learning, they need to travel to Sydney.

No wonder so many companies are hiring apprentices and training them from scratch. At least this way they can be sure that their trainees will be both fully-briefed and fully-integrated into the culture of the company by the time they finish their apprenticeship.

I haven’t even touched here on shortages for automation and process control training. If you work in the education industry for either of these vocations, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me an email at the address below.

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