Belarus - Rediscovering the Green Skills Award finalists

Volma Eco TechnoPark, just west of Minsk, the capital of Belarus, offers students and teachers a unique opportunity to help develop a greener world.

Established in late 2018, the park acts a s centre for technology transfer, Dmitry Boyechko, its laboratory complex head, says.

"Our main activity is to add new competencies to specialists in various fields - energy, construction, housing and communal services, agriculture and ecology."

With an emphasis on using renewable energy sources to augment training in energy efficiency, heating systems, Smart Home and technology, the centre offers short courses of between a few days and a few weeks to students and staff from vocational education and training centres around the country.

Its work has already earned it attention from some of Europe's top industrial and engineering firms - with sponsors that include Viessman, Schneider, Festa, Lucas-Nuelle, Gunt and Christiane. Its pioneering position has also brought it to the attention of the European Training Foundation, and the Eco TechnoPark is one of the finalists in the ETF's Greenskills Awards, announced last June 25 as part of a four-day online event "Building lifelong learning systems: skills for green and inclusive societies in the digital era."

The Eco TechnoPark is a true example of European collaboration - with sponsorship from top companies and grants from EU projects used to equip it with the latest technical instruments.

Students come from all over Belarus to upgrade skills in various fields: the park cooperates with "more 27 secondary specialized educational institutions, six higher educational institutions and this number is constantly growing," Dmitry says.

"International cooperation has also been established, and we have had students from India, China, and Turkmenistan."

The Park has no students of its own, leaving it free to offer flexible courses that address the latest needs and developments in ecological technology to around 500 people a year - mostly students of HE and secondary specialised VET schools. It also conducts internships for in-service training for teaching staff, and welcomes visits from secondary school students to its grounds situated on the picturesque former Vankovich Estate.

"The most striking example [of our courses] is the use of renewable energy sources in various fields," Dmitry observes. "For example, the use of a solar solar collector in the heating system of a residential building. There are several specialties involved at once: builder (installation of solar collectors); plumber (connecting the solar collector to the heating system); and specialist in the complex maintenance of buildings (increasing the competence for the operation of the solar collector). "

He clarifies the term "increasing competence" - since there is nothiong about solar-powered collectors, passive or photovoltaic, in the current curricula of Belarusian VET schools, this is more about introducing competence in fields that "should be present in future specialists."

He adds: "Technology transfer is relevant not only for future specialists - but also for those already working in the labour market."

The main focus of the park is on energy technologies - both traditional and renewable - with courses in areas such as "generator synchronisation within power networks", "smart networks", "design and opereration of photovoltaic installations" and "heat pump efficiency".

Three new laboratories have recently been added to the park concentrating on "modern heating equipment", "modern water treatment systems" and "energy distribution with a centralised 'smart district control system".

In the near future, the partk will add another laboratory complex for greenhouse farming - "Greenhouse of the fifth generation". It will include, in addition to the greenhouse itself, classrooms and laboratories and one of its heat sources will be a heat pump.

Its collaboration with top European companies means it can at once act as a "demonstration platform" for state of the art technologies, and a recuritment centre for those companies who can see the quality of potential employees from students purusing courses at the park.

All of this makes the Volma Eco Technology Park a rare beast.

"In the modern world, technology is developing at a crazy pace, of course," Dmitry notes. "Belarus is trying to keep up with the world leaders. With the development of technology, the need for competent personnel becomes more acute, and this is why centres such as ours are being created. But I want to note that there is not a single center in the Republic of Belarus similar to ours."

On reaching the finals of the Greenskills Awards, Dmitry has one succinct comment: "This is very intriguing - and, of course, once again proves that we are doing the right thing!"

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