Training collaboration between industry and education pays off

HYDAC International
Friday, 13 August, 2021

Training collaboration between industry and educational institutions is bearing fruit despite challenge.

Swinburne University of Technology and HYDAC share a history of training collaboration that has served both parties well.

Swinburne University of Technology Manager for Engineering and Industry 4.0 programs Lei Shi has worked with HYDAC Australia on the Associate Degree of Applied Technologies and a third-party agreement to jointly provide vocational education and training.

Integral role of Industry 4.0 when it comes to training

Shi highlights that it is challenging for universities and industries to keep abreast of the impact of Industry 4.0.

“As a result of globalisation and because we’re in a digitisation era we have to embrace Industry 4.0,” he said. “In line with this, Swinburne commenced an associate degree in 2017 to provide training in Industry 4.0.”

Associate degree promotes higher apprentices

Shi explained that Swinburne’s Associate Degree of Applied Technologies is a “unique” product that promotes the higher apprentices compared to the traditional apprentices from an educational perspective.

“The associate degree is a relatively new concept, with awareness and acceptance in industry not as high as a traditional apprentice or traditional location-based education,” he said. “The higher apprenticeships also come with much more flexibility and agility than the traditional training model that is bound by a restrictive training package, thereby limiting flexibility.”

Shi said that HYDAC’s collaboration with Swinburne over the hydraulic training part of the degree has been appreciated.

“HYDAC’s already been on this Industry 4.0 journey for about five years and has provided a lot of equipment for training purposes,” he said.

He cautions however that for the most part Industry 4.0 is still quite new to Australia, with many companies and individuals still predominantly concerned about how the training capabilities of HYDAC and a university will enable them to see concrete benefits on the ground.

From this aspect, he said, collaboration is required between government, universities, and industry to work together to create more tangible outcomes for industry — not only in providing training for Industry 4.0 knowledge and skills but also training that is “centred on working with industry in real life.”

Cyber-physical systems at core of Industry 4.0

Shi says that cyber-physical systems are at the core of Industry 4.0 because it centres on the “two most important factors” to Industry 4.0: sensors and cyber.

“The challenge for education is how a cyber-physical system can be incorporated into learning and training, and for industry it is how Industry 4.0 can be adopted, especially for companies that focus on return on investment and clear evidence as to how investments are benefitting the company.”

Online training a hot topic

According to Shi, online training has become a hot topic as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.

“It is promoted by industry and organisations, including universities, because of the nature of life today — only today I gave a class on artificial intelligence from home,” he said.

However, he emphasises that this form of learning provides challenges for engineering because the nature of engineering courses is to focus on hands-on skills and practical components that students need to master.

An opportunity, according to Shi, would be to extend the experience of virtual reality training as provided by HYDAC, as well as other technologies such as augmented reality to enable students to complete more practical work at home instead of attending lectures at the university or studying in a laboratory.

Swinburne’s Department of Trades and Engineering Technologies is also developing a remote learning cell system to enable students to “remote in” from their home by leaving their computers in the classroom.

Applied research

Shi also said that applied research, a popular concept in Europe, is not being fully utilised in vocational education in Australia.

“In applied research, vocational teachers work together with students and industry on real-life projects. This means that an educational institution’s income comes not only from the training of students but also from industry projects. This makes for good current-practice teaching,” he explained.

Collaboration challenges

Shi concedes that despite there being much good training collaboration between industries and companies there are also challenges to overcome in terms of optimising the strengths of both parties for a better experience for the learner and public.

“Universities such as Swinburne and industrial companies like HYDAC have their respective strengths,” he said. “HYDAC’s strength lies in real-life application and service to the customer whereas Swinburne’s lies in research and broader experience in providing training and education.”

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