The UPSKILL project, coordinated by LINPRA, has completed a pivotal stage towards its finalisation: the piloting phase of the training material for plastics production line operators has been completed and the team is currently working on the last refinements.
The UPSKILL project focuses on the profession of plastics production line operators. Assessing the current economic and demographic trends, the lack of expertise, and the development of the necessary skills is a relevant challenge in many European companies belonging to the plastics industry.
The main objective of the project is to reduce the current shortage of experts in the plastics sector by linking the European vocational training systems to the needs of the labour market and by supporting the implementation of innovative curricula for these professionals. The project particularly focuses on the development of digital, robotics, and other advanced manufacturing technology skills, as well as on the increase of environmental and entrepreneurial expertise.
The UPSKILL training material is the product of an extensive work carried out by an international team of experts from Finland, France, and Lithuania composed of experienced representatives belonging to the most diverse categories, such as educational institutions, business as well as the European Plastics Converters Association (EuPC). The piloting phase took place during the last four months of 2020 in three vocational training institutions: the Lithuanian Visaginas Vocational School and Alytus Vocational Training Center, the Finnish TREDU and French ISPA. The training material, composed of a Teachers’ book and a Students’ Textbook, allowed the apprentices involved in the piloting stage to acquire an in-depth knowledge of the new theories developed in the project, and to test the practical tasks both at schools and in plastics moulding companies.
Vytautas Petkūnas, Director of the Visaginas Vocational School and member of the LINPRA Board, underlined the consortium’s commitment to the achievement of effective results and tangible benefits for the sector: “The UPSKILL project aims to fill an existing gap by providing training materials that do not currently exist and developing skills of future employees in the sector, which are currently missing. The pilot phase of the project was successful, and the prepared material proved to be relevant - both teachers and students actively tested it and applied the theory in practice”.
One of the project experts, UAB Intersurgical Extrusion Process Manager Laimonas Bačkys stressed the positive impact that the UPSKILL project is expected to reverberate on the plastics sector: “I am happy to participate in the UPSKILL project and share my accumulated knowledge in the development of the training program. Thanks to a competent team of experts and coherent cooperation, we have really succeeded in developing an excellent training program for the profession of plastics production line operators. By acquiring this knowledge, future employees will be able to integrate into the activities of Lithuanian or European plastic moulding companies significantly faster, and the companies themselves will reduce the costs of employee qualification training”.
Several virtual meetings were organised in order to fully involve students from different countries in the piloting phase. During the online events, the participants had the possibility to practically demonstrate how the piloting phase was carried out in their schools. This stimulating exchange allowed them to glimpse the differences in the adaptation of the UPSKILL material to different contexts by foreign students taking part in the project in other countries.
Following the testing phase, the project participants drafted some ad-hoc pilot reports, containing suggestions for the improvement of the training material. These recommendations will be taken into consideration in order to bring the last refinements to both the programme and the training material, which will be available for the first time in May 2021 for the Lithuanian plastic production line operators. The material will be accessible to the public for free and will be used both in vocational schools and in plastic production factories.
The results of the project will be presented during the final virtual UPSKILL conference in April 2021. All representatives of the plastics sector, such as European educational communities, plastics companies, future and current employees, are welcome to join the online event. The link for the registration will be soon available on the UPSKILL website.