Modern technologies require modern skills to drive employability. We have witnessed the industry evolve from the first industrial revolution to what is currently known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). This current revolution, also known as Industry 4.0, is defined by a combination of advances in digitalisation, integration, big data, virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the internet of things (IoT), 3D printing, and a wide range of other technologies. The job market’s needs and requirements are quickly changing because of this revolution. As a result, it has become even more crucial for educational institutions to implement a curriculum that prepares students to graduate confidently into a 4IR labour market.
merSETA, which is part of the 21 Industry Sector Education and Training Authorities for skills development, partnered with Festo, a leading supplier of industrial automation solutions and a global leader in technical education, to establish a 4IR skills centre at Maluti TVET College. The college is a key educational institution in the rural parts of the Free State in Phuthaditjhaba. It has established itself as the institution of choice in technical and vocational education and training, with the vision to offer training for Industry 4.0 through a curriculum that incorporates the rapid advancements in current technology and the necessary future skills that can place the country on a global pedestal.
Maluti TVET College is now in a position to provide its students with the skills required to increase their employability and productivity in the workplace. Hands-on skills in industrial robotics, digitalisation, control in pneumatics, smart production lines, 3D printing, VR and augmented reality, networking and IT security, and mobile robotics are some of the key topics the centre can now provide.
The 4IR lab was launched on 8 December 2022 in the Free State. The opening was officiated by the acting principal of Maluti TVET College, Motlalepula Tsotetsi; the acting CEO of the merSETA, Ncedisa Mpande; and Festo’s head of Didactic in southern and eastern Africa, Horst Weinert. “This skills centre will offer students a fresh and unique opportunity to address youth unemployment by specifically adjusting TVET education models to upskill the next generation and catalyse innovation for digital transformation,” said Mpande, positioning the role of the merSETA during her speech at the launch of the skills centre.
The state-of-the-art 4IR skills centre is equipped with industrial technology that will uniquely address Industry 4.0 topics across different streams.
The cutting-edge equipment includes:
• Bionics, robotics and coding.
• Embedded microcontrollers.
• Fluid power technology, sensor technology.
• Digitalised pump system 4.0.
• Digitalisation, PLC programming, cybersecurity.
• Mobile robotics and smart factory integration.
• Connected learning and virtual reality.
• 3D printing additive manufacturing.
• Intelligent components and Industry 4.0 systems.
• Smart sensors and actuators.
• Mechatronic modular production systems.
During his speech, Weinert mentioned that as an employer his interest lies in the students’ technical ability, and these skills can be achieved through an industry-driven curriculum. He added that the Industry 4.0 technology, paired with this curriculum, would transform Maluti TVET College to become a highly attractive place for future engineers to study. This will be beneficial to the greater community, and moving South Africa to a knowledge economy. Festo is honoured to have been a part of building a legacy that will reform the education of the people of Phuthaditjhaba, the district, the province and the country.
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