Power Plant Training Courses For Operators And Engineers

Few could be more aware of the value of access to electricity than the families and business owners in South Africa. After decades of enjoying power at the flick of a switch, save for occasional outages due to a lightning strike, the electricity demand now regularly exceeds Eskom’s generation capacity, leaving homes and businesses in darkness. Repairs and additional infrastructure are essential, and the necessary extra personnel will require suitable power plant training courses. 

However, supply issues are not the only obstacles that the electricity-generating industry must cope with today. It is no longer possible to deny the industry’s contribution to the world’s carbon footprint and the visible evidence of its role in global warming. Pressure on producers to abandon their dependence on coal and gas in favour of more sustainable options has been mounting. Both Eskom and the private sector are now investing in solar energy production. Ensuring a smooth transition to alternative technologies will require appointing more staff and preparing them with the relevant power plant training courses. While not a new technology, nuclear energy is experiencing a worldwide resurgence, with numerous new facilities already operational, under construction or planned.  

In practice, staffing these facilities has become more difficult in recent years. Many of the nations’ most experienced engineers and operatives have either reached retirement age and dropped out of the system or chosen to emigrate to countries where they can market their skills more profitably. Overcoming the resulting skills shortage will require an extensive recruiting campaign backed up by proven effective power plant training courses. 

What Are the Available Options?

In many situations, it may be feasible to provide on-the-job instruction for a new employee. For example, a supervisor can demonstrate the use of a machine, describing each stage in the process and its purpose before inviting the trainee to perform the same task and overseeing the learner’s efforts. However, while drilling holes or cutting metal with a machine tool requires skill, a mistake by a trainee whilst adjusting a plant’s output to meet the region’s peak load requirements could have severe and far-reaching consequences. In practice, on-the-job instruction is not the most viable option when conducting power plant training courses.

In addition to its role in supporting e-Commerce and social media, the internet is becoming an increasingly popular platform for distance learning. Online learning has replaced old-fashioned correspondence courses with a more personalised and immersive experience that supports two-way interaction between the learners and their instructor. Users report success in learning how to read music, mastering a new language and honing their communication skills online. It was only a matter of time before one or two companies began offering online power plant training courses. However, while they might emulate the classroom experience reasonably well, they fail to provide the essential hands-on experience needed to develop the practical skills and the confidence to apply them.

That said, one should not underestimate the value of understanding the theory underlying practical tasks. That background knowledge helps explain the purpose of those tasks and how they achieve their goals, reinforcing the learning experience. In many cases, plant personnel possess the knowledge and experience to conduct the theoretical instruction in-house. 

However, a power plant training course is of minimal value unless it includes the opportunity for learners to gain sufficient hands-on practical experience. Providing the latter can often be difficult in a busy workplace. So, could there be a more reliable way for a trainee to practise how to manage a plant’s typical routine tasks and implement emergency procedures when necessary? As it happens, there is.

Providing that All-important Practise

Simulators are widely used for practise purposes by pilots, doctors and nurses, and their impact has proved them to be highly effective. Not surprisingly, interactive computer simulations are proving to be equally effective as a component of power plant training courses.

SimGenics is a leader in simulated learning and has developed several options for use by the power generation industry. The company offers partial and full-scope simulations for operatives in natural gas, coal and nuclear plants, together with the related manuals, and can also provide experienced instructors if required. 

Clients also have the option to develop simulations in-house, using one of the advanced software programmes also available from SimGenics. Alternatively, they can retain the company to create a bespoke model of their plant for use in the practical portion of their power plant training courses.

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