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ITA focus on skilling future tunnellers 12 Oct 2017

ITACET Foundation News Release

In the early 2000s, the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association identified education and training as one of the major challenges that the industry would have to face over the next decades, with the sharp rise in tunnelling projects calling for a marked increase in highly skilled manpower. The Association recognized the increasing importance of sharing knowledge among its members, particularly as new ITA Member Nations are often still inexperienced in underground works.

In order to meet this challenge, in 2007 the ITA created the ITA Committee for Education and Training (ITA-CET), with the aim of implementing a high-level education policy to help train young engineers. The Committee was officially established during the ITA General Assembly in Prague in May 2007 and was the second Committee to be created within the ITA.

ITA-CET Committee Chairman Galler (right) and Vice Chairman Deffayet (left)
ITA-CET Committee Chairman Galler (right) and Vice Chairman Deffayet (left)
From Left: Felix Amberg (Secretary and Treasurer), Eng. Abdullah Al-Mogbel (President) and Claude Berenguier (Executive Director), of the ITACET Foundation
From Left: Felix Amberg (Secretary and Treasurer), Eng. Abdullah Al-Mogbel (President) and Claude Berenguier (Executive Director), of the ITACET Foundation

As the Committee’s current Vice Chairman, Michel Deffayet, explains: “One of the main roles of the Committee is to prepare the contents of training events organized and promoted by the ITA at the request of Member Nations. These events usually take the form of short one or two-day courses, although the Committee is open to requests for other types of events such as seminars, workshops or webinars. The primary target audiences of these short courses are young engineers from developing countries and countries in transition. However, any ITA Member Nation can request the Committee’s help to develop the content of training events.”

After the organization of initial training events in 2007 and 2008, it soon became clear that as an association, it would be difficult for the ITA to bear the financial risk of organizing such courses. For this reason, in 2009 the ITA General Assembly officially approved the creation of the ITACET Foundation. This organization is financially autonomous from the ITA and relies on generous donations to help finance short courses in countries that would otherwise not be able to benefit from such events.

ITA-CET Principles of Tunnel Design course in Malaysia
ITA-CET Principles of Tunnel Design course in Malaysia

The two entities have quite distinct roles. The ITACET Foundation handles the organizational and financial aspects of these courses, whilst the Committee prepares the course programmes in relation with the host Member Nation and carefully chooses the lecturers, many of whom are renowned experts within the ITA and the international tunnelling and underground space development industry.

The close collaboration between the Committee and the Foundation is one of the main reasons for the success of these courses, which have now contributed to the training of more than 6,000 students and young professionals over the last ten years. Requests for courses from ITA Member Nations are on the increase, particularly from countries in South America and Asia, where numerous major tunnelling projects are planned or underway. To date, thanks to a network of 135 ITA-CET lecturers who have generously agreed to donate their time, 64 short courses on a wide variety of topics have been held in 25 different countries around the world. While these courses currently tend to be face-face, there are plans to develop e-learning courses and notably webinars, in order to widen the audience who could benefit from this knowledge-sharing.

In addition to providing short training courses, (including those held each year at the World Tunnel Congress), both the ITA-CET Committee and ITACET Foundation are actively involved in promoting university education in tunnelling and underground space. The Committee has established a university network comprising professors from establishments that offer high-level post-graduate degrees in tunnelling or that wish to do so. The aim of this network is to enable its members to share ideas on teaching methods and course content, in addition to facilitating student and lecturer exchanges. The Committee also examines requests for official ITA endorsement of Master’s degrees or Doctorates and attributes endorsement after a detailed analysis of course content, teaching hours, teaching and assessment methodology, diversity of lecturers and support of the ITA Member Nation in question. So far, five Master’s have received such endorsement:

ITACET scholarship recipient Senthilnath Govindaraju Thangavelu, who won Young Tunneller of the Year in 2016
ITACET scholarship recipient Senthilnath Govindaraju Thangavelu, who won Young Tunneller of the Year in 2016
  • Specialized Master’s in Tunnelling and Tunnel Boring Machines, Politecnico di Torino, Italy,
  • MSc in Tunnelling and Underground Space, Warwick University, United Kingdom,
  • Specialized Master’s in Tunnelling and Underground Space, ENTPE/INSA, Lyon, France
  • Master’s in Tunnels and Underground Works, AETOS, Madrid, Spain,
  • MAS in Tunnelling, EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland (now closed).

Enabling students from around the world to benefit from such courses is one of the ITACET Foundation aims. Claude Berenguier, the Foundation’s Executive Director explains: “The Foundation uses part of the generous donations that it receives to offer scholarships to students from emerging countries wishing to enroll on an ITA-endorsed Master course. This scholarship programme has been running since 2011 and I am proud to say that most of the beneficiaries now have successful careers in tunnelling.”

The underground space industry is constantly evolving and there have been significant developments in tunnelling equipment and materials over the last few years, which need trained and qualified persons for their handling and operation. Another of the ITA-CET Committee’s missions is to collaborate with industry in order to help develop certification schemes for specific skills in the tunnelling industry. The ITA has notably endorsed the EFNARC Nozzleman Scheme, which offers certification to experienced nozzlemen who can demonstrate their technical knowledge and practical skills and other technical training schemes and academies are seeking similar endorsement.

Training course on Excavation and Support in Soft Ground Conditions, WTC 2017, Norway
Training course on Excavation and Support in Soft Ground Conditions, WTC 2017, Norway

Training requirements around the world are still clearly on the rise and one of the challenges faced by both the ITA-CET Committee and ITACET Foundation is to mobilize sufficient human resources to maintain efforts. As with all the ITA work, the success of training and knowledge-sharing activities relies heavily on the drive and commitment of individual members, whose active involvement is crucial. It is hoped that new collaborations within the ITA - with the Young Members Group and with industry for example - will provide fresh impetus and help to further develop training actions. If you would like to become involved in ITA-CET activities, please contact: ita-cet.secretariat@developpement-durable.gouv.fr



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