Translation of an article by Capital.bg
Author: Anina Santova
If you don’t have it, you have to do it by yourself. This is the motto that Plamen Panchev has followed all his life. Having formed the basis of the creation of the already well-known Trakia Economic Zone, Panchev now wants to tackle the next challenge – the lack of staff for companies in the area. Because of that they open a Vocational Training Center.
It started work on September 10th and will bring together about 200 students in 11 halls – one for training and ten for theory. The aim is to quality retrain and train staff from across the country for the needs of different industries.
Panchev laid the conceptual foundations of the project 2 years ago. The Association applies under the Operational Program “Innovation and Competitiveness” 2014-2020 for funds worth BGN 1.754 million under the project “Targeted Development and Updating of Cluster Information Assets”, with the co-financing by TEZ being 40% of the total. The funds were used to prepare the infrastructure of the building as well as for the technique chosen with the assistance of the industrial giants of the area.
“It can be said that this is a center where we have the same technique as that used in all industries-pneumatics (mechanisms using compressed gases for work), hydraulics (mechanisms generating energy through pressurized liquids), automation, etc.”, commented for “Capital” Marko Ivanov, who is one of the project managers. “There are any well-known companies involved, such as Schneider Electric and ABB and the technique we train is the one they train themselves. This means that it is not intended for educational purposes but corresponds to the real in the production itself“, Ivanov specifies. According to him the feeling is completely different when the trainers have the opportunity to get acquainted with a machine that they will use in real future conditions.
Face to face with the machine
To be more effective trainers will be divided into smaller groups so that each employee can receive maximum attention. They will have the opportunity to become familiar with the technique that interests them “first-person”, and this is one of the most sustainable methods in this type of in-house training.
The project managers have agreed with lectures from different universities, as well as industry participants and teachers in vocational high schools to explain the matter. Education will be theoretical and practical – according to Ivanov “one is an integral part of the other”. “We have to consider first what we are teaching them and then to give them the opportunity to understand how it works to learn how to react”, he explains.
The technical base of the center is quite rich – it will have departments that simulate the production itself, systems with pneumatic, hydraulic and automatic drives, center with electric motors, which are used for more precise industrial robots in real production environment. In addition the center will have a combination of equipment with which different companies produce – for example, a robot from ABB will be powered by parts of the HMC.
The trainings will be short, concise with less theory and rigorously profiled in the area they are targeted. “For example the basic hydraulics training is carried out within two weeks so that trainees can obtain the necessary information and work with the machines. In addition, of emergencies occur, they will be able to respond appropriately and then the production model itself will be less hampered”, says Ivanov.
All the big ones are here
The Vocational Training Center will work mainly with foreign companies and so far all industrial giants in TEZ and all major industrial enterprises in Bulgaria have shown a strong interest in conducting training here. The project is essentially open and this allows any enterprise in the area to participate directly in specification and provision of the technical equipment that trainees want to work with. “We do not have an exact program to work on, we prefer to respond to the specific requirements of each individual company and provide it with what is needed”, Ivanov explains. He states that training funds are at the expense of companies that thus raise the knowledge and qualifications of their staff by investing in it.
Asked what kind of personnel is most in need, Ivanov replies that these are machine operators in industrial production. Those who wish can be further trained with the aim of creating autonomous working groups that can be support staff in one enterprise and respond quickly and locally.
The high schools too
The training center team also takes a larger look into the future. An ambitious idea is to extend the project to vocational high schools in the area (which are 7 in total). It will be open for student visits from September, but it can be used as a place to give open lessons – some high schools have already asked if they can use the center as part of their dual training.
Another goal of the team is to equip several specialized laboratories in the schools themselves, so that the level of secondary education can be raised. Some companies are already partnering with high schools and providing training so such an initiative would be of great benefit to them.
“We start with the need for the businesses themselves but the idea is to develop the project so that the level of education is raised. We cannot be called an educational center but rather we are a training center but we want to participate as much as possible in improving especially in secondary school because that’s where the biggest problem is,” says Marko Ivanov.
Another ambitious task for the training center is to help doctoral students at universities who suffer from poor pay and only have to live with a minimum stipend. One advantageous opportunity for them would be, for example, teaching in vocational high schools and subsequently in a training center. So far, there will be taught by lecturers from the two technical universities in Plovdiv – the branch of the Technical University and the University of Food Technology.
The deadlines they set for all this are tight. Within the next 5 years the whole integrated project must be ready and the team is not very modest – they hope to fulfill even their most ambitious plans and start research. To this end funding will be sought through various integration programs and through European projects. Plovdiv is also just the beginning. The idea of this center to be “cloned” in other places.