A new structural unit, the Department of Practical Skills and Experience, has been established at the Empress Catherine II Saint Petersburg Mining University. Its mission will be to improve the efficiency of practical training and assist students in mastering programmes of additional professional competencies (APC).
The main objective of the higher education reform that is currently underway in the country is to reduce the shortage of personnel and ensure a painless process of generational change in various sectors of the national economy. It is impossible to do this by returning to the old Soviet model of training specialists, because the world has changed beyond recognition since the collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as the requirements to the employees of enterprises on the part of employers. Today, they want to see people on their staff who can, among other things, meet modern standards, and these standards have gone a long way forward in the last 30 years.
"It is no longer enough for employers to see that an applicant for a particular position has a university diploma, as this document has largely lost its former internal content. In order to be truly in demand on the labour market, graduates, in addition to knowledge and practical skills, need to master at least eight additional professional competencies. These include the ability to negotiate in a foreign language, to use a particular software, to understand the economic mechanisms of production and its technological chain. Students must also master two working specialities on a compulsory basis. This is a requirement of the time," emphasised Vladimir Litvinenko, Rector of the Mining University.
In other words, the new system of higher education, which is currently being tested in the first technical university of the country, and then will be implemented throughout Russia, is based on the specialisation curricula, which originated in the USSR, but many ideas and solutions are noticeably adjusted. This is necessary in order to preserve the achievements of the last decades and to take into account the trends of tomorrow. Among them, obviously, will be the demand from business for comprehensively developed specialists.
"We have to create conditions for all future engineers to have an opportunity to obtain additional competences that will increase their competitiveness. For this purpose, the university has created more than 260 programmes in various training areas. They are electives, from which the students have to choose eight compulsory ones at their discretion. Naturally, they should be attended not at one time, but one after another, during the entire period of study. For example, students studying in the speciality "Oil and Gas Well Drilling Technology" can get a certificate of skills in AutoCAD and Compass 3D automatic design systems for preparing two- and three-dimensional drawings, taking courses in management psychology or business communication in technical English. As for mastering working professions, it can be, for example, an assistant driller of production and exploration drilling of oil and gas wells of the 5th category and a laboratory technician-collector of the 3rd category," explained Sergey Lavrenko, Head of the Department of Practical Skills and Experience.
In order to become a holder of a document confirming a working speciality, it is necessary to undergo at least two stages of training. Primary skills are acquired within the walls of the university, in the process of training on simulators simulating real fields, and then consolidated at the training ground of the Mining University in Sablino. All conditions have been created there to make young people feel like real drillers.
In the same way, students in other specialisations will also receive additional competences. For example, young men and women studying in the speciality "Mining Transport Systems" and "Mining Machines" can choose from such training courses as, for example, three-dimensional modelling of open-pit mining operations using CAD systems, engineering calculations in Ansys Workbench, mine planning using Surpac software, and a number of others.
"We are interested in ensuring that our graduates are not only true professionals in their field, but also broadly educated people, true representatives of technical intelligentsia. That is why, among others, they can also take courses in scientific speech. This is necessary to speak correctly, to clearly convey your thoughts to the interlocutor, to defend your point of view", - said Sergey Lavrenko.
He also specified that students of the mechanical engineering faculty can learn the profession of bulldozer or dump truck operator, hydraulic system operation technician, etc. As in the case of drillers, at the first stage they learn skills on simulators, and then, after they have been awarded the relevant permits, at the sites of partner companies. One of the options is the plant of the BELAZ company, which is the world's largest manufacturer of quarry equipment.
The opportunity to acquire additional competences in the course of their studies appeared to the students of the St. Petersburg Mining University several years ago, but earlier they made the decision to attend these elective courses on a voluntary basis. Lavrentiy Dadayan, a student of Mining Machines and Equipment, has learnt, among other things, how to work with hydraulic drives. He says that this experience has already helped him during his practical training.
"I took it in Norilsk and realised that the hydraulic systems of machinery used in mines are similar to those I studied at the BELAZ Competence Centre at the Mining University. This allowed me to shorten the period of adaptation to the conditions of real production and get maximum benefit from the internship," said Lavrentiy Dadayan.
His classmate Evgeny Fedorov, who learnt four additional professional competences during the whole period of training, is sure that they increased his competitiveness. This is because current employees of the companies where he did his internship "start treating students differently when they learn that they have certain skills" that most of their peers lack.
"The main task of our department is to integrate industry and education. In particular, to attract to the university full-time specialists working in mining, energy and petrochemical companies that are partners of our university. Both to give lectures and to teach students about safety at the enterprises right here in the classrooms. This will allow us to give them work permits to work in production even before they go there for internship, which will certainly increase its efficiency. Speaking about the courses of additional professional competences, which are a very important part of the work in this direction, they will be conducted, first of all, by the teachers of the university itself. But we plan to invite highly qualified representatives of the industry," explained Sergey Lavrenko.
Particular attention will be paid to mastering digital skills, as their availability every year has an increasing impact on the career prospects of young people. Today, for example, one of the most popular programming languages is Python. It is used in data analysis, machine learning, website and app development. Given the rapid pace of development of mining and oil and gas companies, including the introduction of advanced technologies, university graduates are undoubtedly required to be proficient in it and possess a number of other competences of similar importance.