Creating an ecosystem of up-to-date educational spaces for technical specialties at municipal schools of the Dnipro City
Interpipe is a state-of-the-art production facility, the key personnel of which are skilled workers and engineers. Already today we are facing a significant staffing problem and expect an even greater aggravation of this situation in the future.
After all, young adults do not want to get an engineering education: the list of the 10 most popular majors among prospective students during the admission campaign of 2021 has not a single engineering one. Our future students are actively choosing philology, psychology, marketing, law, and IT, ignoring technical engineering specialties. The total number of applications submitted for engineering majors at higher education institutions in 2020 was only 18%.
Vocational education institutions systematically fail to draw up enough students for mastering industrial worker jobs, and, as a result, the employment market shows no young professionals available.
The lack of skilled workers and engineers, who have relevant competencies for up-to-date production facilities, is a systemic problem not only of Interpipe, but also of the entire industrial cluster of the state.
The non-popularity of technical and engineering professions among young people stems from the lack of quality experience of children’s interaction with technical specialties.
After all, at present:
– The system of school technical education is destroyed;
– The ties in the chain “school – secondary technical education – higher education institution – employer” are broken;
– Schools provide no information about industrial worker jobs and engineering professions; and
– There is a stereotype in society about non-prestigious, uninspiring production facilities and low wages, although a skilled worker earns more than many office professionals.
SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEMATIC SITUATION:
The case described was preceded by the systematic work of Interpipe to promote engineering professions among the rising generation representatives. For four years in a row, starting in 2016, the Company arranged and held Interpipe TechFest – the only major engineering show in Ukraine, where schoolchildren and students could get acquainted with the state-of-the-art engineering through thematic exhibitions of modern industrial companies and technical competitions, including mechatronics – a discipline that combines electricity, mechanics, and up-to-date technologies.
In 2018, at the initiative of the Company and with the support of the leading technical higher education institution of the city – Dnipro Polytechnic – the Interpipe Mechatronic Lab educational program was launched for school-goers and students, within which children were gaining basic skills of a modern specialty. In May 2019, Interpipe, together with Dnipro Polytechnic National Technical University, opened the first mechatronics laboratory in the region, furnished with German Fischertechnik equipment. In February 2020, the second mechatronics laboratory was launched, equipped with simulators of the German FESTO Company, specializing in the development of the skill acquisition equipment for schools and higher education institutions around the world.
The Company started creating an ecosystem of up-to-date educational spaces for technical specialties at municipal schools in 2020.
By joining forces with the city authorities, we are working in two directions.
First. We modernize vocational training classrooms, making repairs, purchasing equipment and materials, working with teachers, and developing current programs together with the Department of Education. These are the premises where children acquire the first skills of technical specialties and get an understanding of the scope of their application and the prospects of industrial worker jobs in terms of income and professional development. In the future, they can make a conscious choice in favor of getting a specialty at vocational education institutions. As of November 2021, two vocational training classrooms and a rocket modeling club have been already opened, and three more vocational training classrooms will be arranged by the end of 2022.
Second. We are building state-of-the-art mechatronics laboratories, equipped with reduced copies of real industrial lines. To operate “toy-like” conveyors and manipulators, children program real controllers and learn the basics of the mechatronics profession, which combines a series of engineering specialties. In the future, they will be able to make an informed choice of an engineering major at a higher education institution. Such laboratories are successfully operating at two schools, and another two of them will be opened by the end of 2021.
The Company has invested more than UAH 3 million in launching five facilities of this kind.
We bring all new educational spaces into a single ecosystem with the help of thematic events: the annual open city mechatronics competition Interpipe Mechatronic Lab; training programs at the premises of the Dnipro Polytechnic, providing remote access to equipment; the annual “Dnipro – a city of engineers” competition for teams of schoolchildren led by teachers; and the Mechatronics Championship in the framework of WorldSkills Ukraine.
Participation of the Company’s departments:
• Corporate Relations Department: project initiation and management;
• Other departments: involvement, if necessary, for the procurement of equipment and design tools.
Participation of the Humanitarian Policy Department of the Dnipro City Council:
• Selection of schools for opening laboratories;
• Arrangement and conduct of repairs at mechatronics laboratories and purchase of furniture; and
• Information support of the project.
Participation of the Dnipro Polytechnic National Technical University:
• Providing teachers with methodological materials for conducting classes;
• Support and advice for teachers on the training.
Participation of schools:
• Allocation of a classroom for the arrangement of a laboratory;
• Development of the training schedule; and
• Conducting classes.
RESULTS OF THE DECISION MADE:
• 5 up-to-date classrooms for technical education at schools of the left bank area of the Dnipro City, also used as a harbor for a number of school-goers from neighboring schools;
• About 1,000 schoolchildren study mechatronics at school laboratories;
• 500 students and schoolchildren have already taken an Interpipe Mechatronic Lab program course;
• Since 2018, interest in mechatronics as a state-of-the-art engineering specialty among secondary school students in the region has increased by 300%; and
• Each vocational training classroom hosts up to 150 students every day.
Testimonials on the project:
Masha Arshinnikova, student of school No. 129: “Mechatronics is a very promising and popular field. It’s great that we got such a modern classroom and cool teachers to train us. We gain new knowledge and skills and work in teams. We will definitely need this knowledge in the future.”
Yaroslav Fedko, physics teacher from school No. 136: “It is very good that high school kids from neighboring schools can also study at the mechatronics laboratory. We come with students to school No. 129. Thanks to the lessons with design tools, children get a better understanding on how to use knowledge in life. And as a result, I’m sure that their knowledge of physics will be much better.”
Roman Tverdokhlib, handicraft teacher at school No. 69: “During these classes, school kids will be able to familiarize themselves with many professions, such as lathe operator or even equipment adjuster. All work is carried out under my close supervision.”
Serhiy Khudoliy, Associate Professor of the Dnipro Polytechnic Department: “School curricula provide students with a holistic view of the future specialty and form an understanding of the goals of schooling. It becomes immediately clear for them why they need to study physics, mathematics, and computer science. For example, when programming the motion of robots, knowledge of geometry is required to ensure accurate, optimal movement in space. When programming an automated sorting line, knowledge of physics is needed to understand how color or material definition sensors operate.”
Ksenia Sushko, Director of the Humanitarian Policy Department of the Dnipro City Council: “At these laboratories, groups of schoolchildren will work according to a number of individual training plans. Children will be able to use this knowledge in the future; perhaps it will even affect their choice of profession, and the skills acquired at the mechatronics classroom will allow these kids to develop industry in our city”.
Serhiy Mitrokhov, head of the rocket modeling club: “Children of all ages come to our club. And the girls here are no less persistent than the boys. The renovation made significantly facilitates and accelerates our work. And this is a source of pleasure from our work.”