12 April, 2024

Technology training works – a return journey

10 June, 2016

On-site practical fluid power engineering training offers flexible modular learning, writes Ian Stephenson, director, TCL-Cumbria.

The conventional routes for acquiring knowledge are at schools, colleges and universities; these are all establishments built to enable the delivery of fundamentals on the widest range of subjects in a classroom environment – a tried and tested format for learning theory. At some point in the student’s life, the ‘world-of-work’ looms large and choices are made about which route to follow depending on a mixture of academic ability, practical skills and social interests.

Today there is a wider selection of further education for both theory and practise and there are bigger opportunities for the student who wishes to progress vocational options with the introduction of technical university colleges, linking up with engineering apprentice training facilities.

For very good reasons, the engineering student experience is based largely on courses that provide an all-round grounding in basics, of say mechanical or electronic engineering. Almost without exception the ‘classroom’ model prevails and students/apprentices learn their trades theoretically; in a sense, divorced from the reality of practical application.

The situation is compounded by the fact that when specialist aspects are included, such as pneumatics and electronics, the tasks to be completed are based on the provision of loose bits of equipment, tubing and wiring, resulting in a ‘miss-mash’ assembly of parts joined together by ‘spaghetti’. Similar conditions apply for hydraulics. It is not until the student-cum-apprentice ‘qualifies’ and he/she has access to production machinery that the ‘penny-drops’ and the real learning process begins.

Theory and good practice

Converse to the roll-out of technology curriculums in schools (STEM) and the expansion of technical colleges, the number of SME’s with in-house training departments has radically dropped away. Local colleges continue to provide all-round underpinning courses, but the more specialist the subject, the more likely it is that employers have to send their staff further afield, to universities and dedicated training centres.

In the world of fluid power, plant and equipment manufacturers do play their part by offering courses of different levels at their dedicated training centres, albeit these do focus almost entirely (and naturally) on the company’s product range and do tend to operate out of a centrally based, sometimes non-manufacturing, headquarters. The courses combine a mixture of theory and (supposedly) good practice in the design of power and control systems and, occasionally some mechanical assembly activity. (Incidentally, I wonder how many recognise the ‘spaghetti’ scenario I described earlier?)

Is there an alternative to the constraints of multiple staff time away from the place of work, travelling to a distant venue with the added cost of accommodation? The answer is a resounding, ‘Yes’. Under the banner of ‘technology training works’, TCL-Cumbria will travel the length and breadth of the UK to deliver bespoke training programmes on or near to the employer’s premises or production plant.

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