For President of the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), Professor Fritz Pinnock, the establishment of the Festo Authorised and Certified Training (FACT) Centre at the institution’s Palisadoes Road location, was a journey of love and a lesson in perseverance and determination.
The state-of-the-art facility, which will deliver international certification in industrial automation and mechatronics, is the result of a partnership between the CMU and globally renowned German training institute, Festo Didactic.
In an interview with JIS News, Professor Pinnock recalled the efforts to raise the initial $402 million needed to build and outfit the centre with two world-class Festo laboratories. He wrote 91 proposals for funding, the first 90 of which were rejected.
At the official opening of the facility on September 19, an overjoyed Professor Pinnock recounted the nine-year journey, which included interventions and support by officials across Administrations.
“This was a journey with all hands on deck. This has been a journey of love; a journey of vision,” he said.
He noted that the project went through many stages, with the scope changed from a two-lab outfit to being the largest collection of the 10 most sophisticated Festo engineering laboratories in the world.
Professor Pinnock credited Director of Corporate Planning and Administration at CMU, Erron McLean, and his wife Chief Education Officer in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information,
Dr. Grace McLean, for introducing him to the world of Festo. This was subsequent to their attendance at the World Skills Competition in Switzerland in 2009.
He told JIS News that after doing the research, he realised that such a facility has what was needed to address gaps in training at CMU.
“When they told me about it, I was so excited, and I met with the then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Audrey Sewell. We brought some persons from Festo Didactic into the island to meet with us, and they told us what they were all about,” he informed.
“I wanted Festo here, and I was committed to having it here, but raising the funds was no easy task,” he added. “It took six years and 91 proposals (of which 90 failed) to get the funding. That is why I say to people ‘never give up’ because after 90, I could have given up,” he noted. Professor Pinnock credits the Petro-Caribe Development Fund, which took the first step and partnered with CMU to get the project off the ground with the first $402 million.
Speaking at the opening, the Fund’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Wesley Hughes, informed that the CMU project was the single largest grant of its kind in the history of the fund, noting that it is money that was well spent.
“The partnership with CMU, our newest university, in trying to make itself into a world-class centre for training has been, from day one, an important one for us because we saw the central need to develop the human potential of our country” he said. “It represents a game-changing project that can positively affect the lives of thousands of young people as they prepare for the fourth industrial revolution,” he added.
To date, the total spend on the centre has exceeded $750 million with additional inputs from the Universal Service Fund and CMU. Professor Pinnock said that all the equipment for the labs was brought in from Germany and that six engineers were sent to Festo for training “We sent some of our brightest and best past students to be trained and certified to become the FACT Centre trainers. They returned and trained other trainers. They will now be offering global certification,” he beamed. He said that the centre will bridge the gap between academia and industry. (more)
“In the high-end motor-car industry, for example, a traditional mechanic can no longer operate in that environment. That person will have to bring themselves in line with industry trends through training and certification. This centre, which is the only such in the English-speaking Caribbean will provide that level of training,” he explained. He noted further that for “automated factories such as bottling plants, the whole maintenance area, we’ll be certifying personnel. We will also be certifying people, who work at the airports with aircraft, bioimedical technicians, and those who work on high tech medical equipment.”
Professor Pinnock explained that within the service industries, multifaceted engineers are required for assembly line systems and the FACT Centre is equipped and ready to produce such experts.
He pointed out that a cohort from Pepsi Cola bottling company has already been trained at the centre and added that the time will come when that expertise will no longer have to be imported.
“This school is designed to meet the needs of industrial entities and solve their technical, personnel and training needs through certification and training of critical engineers and technicians at all levels. This comprehensive offering is customised to fulfil the Jamaican and Caribbean workforce needs,” he noted. It employs the didactic methods of Festo, which integrates technologies such as pneumatics, industrial safety, programmable logic control and a full automation laboratory, addressing commissioning, troubleshooting, closed-loop control and robotics.
Festo is the recognised global standard, which, when infused with the academic programme offerings of the CMU, will meet both certification and employment needs.
Graduates will, therefore, receive Festo certification that has global currency. “All of our degree programmes are underpinned by professional bodies worldwide, and that we will continue to do,” Professor Pinnock said.
Students will benefit from more than 20 professional certificate and diploma courses, which will be offered for periods of over a week to three months and up to a year.
Through a partnership with the HEART Trust/NTA, CMU will be offering courses for entry-level technicians. Individuals will also be able to pursue the Bachelor and Master of Engineering programmes in Mechatronics and Automation.
By: Peta-Gay Hodges