The first industrial simulation academy in the UAE began classes with 10 Emirati students last week. Dina El Shammaa finds out what the experience has been like.

The Dh100 million Emirates Simulation Academy (ESA) in Abu Dhabi is the first simulation academy to be set up in the region. It aims to train operations personnel working in industrial plants on how to respond to commonly encountered emergencies. The academy is a joint venture between Al Qudra Holding UAE, CERT (Centre of Excellence for Applied Research and Training) UAE and GSE Systems USA.

Courses run from 1 to 26 weeks and have been designed to address the operational needs of the region's main industries. These include power generation, water desalination, petroleum refining, offshore oil and gas.

Even though the first batch comprises all Emirati students — all employees of Al Taweela — the academy is open to expatriate applicants as well. It expects to receive up to 650 students in its new campus this year. Another 18 students are expected to join the programme in the second batch.

Abdul Latif Al Ali, 40, has been working at Al Taweela for almost two decades. Currently serving as Head of Safety he appreciates being among the employees recommended to take the programme.

"I was very excited when I first heard of this innovative and specialised practice which is quite different from everything we've done so far. This programme is very interesting and we are pleased with the information and skills we are picking up," he told Notes.

Added knowledge

Sajed Dos Mohammad Al Blushi, 20, who works in Electrical Maintenance, said he was looking forward to joining classes at the academy.

"Being a fresh graduate, this instructive course has really boosted my practical expertise of the basics of operating equipment and readings of temperature and pressure," Al Blushi told Notes.

Students are placed in situations mirroring those they would normally encounter in a power plant or facility.

Fahed Nasser Al Junaibi, 21, works as a mechanical engineer. He feels this is a chance for him to gain hands-on knowledge needed to advance in his field. "The academy is offering specialised training in my field which is the first of its kind in the UAE. With this great learning environment, I can take pride in knowing that when I return to my position, I will be more productive and effectual."

Why simulation training?

Simulation-based training is one of the most effective methods of training operations personnel of industrial plants. Simulations allow plant personnel to observe the consequences of their actions without any direct impact on actual plant operations.

Through simulation-based exercises, trainees can learn how to respond to critical situations. They are taught through a combination of classroom and simulator trainings that provide students with both visual and experimental learning that is safe, effective, time-saving and cost-effective.

Simulator training programmes

- The academy currently offers various simulator training programmes based on five industrial operations:

- Combined Cycle Gas Turbine Power Plant

- Gas Turbine Power Plant

- Desalination Plant

- Oil Refinery

- Oil and Gas Platform

- Each programme offers a systematic and in-depth coverage of operator fundamentals and unit-specific systems as well as practical hands-on simulator exercises.

- The programmes are tailor-made for employees in the industrial sector, students in technical fields, recent graduates from technical schools and managers or supervisors seeking more comprehensive knowledge about the operations of a certain type of facility.

- The programmes are modular in nature and courses can be easily adjusted to meet a specific training goal or need.

Timely programme

Mahmoud Al Mahmoud, CEO of Al Qudra Holding, said the Emirates Simulation Academy programme is both timely and necessary for the UAE, particularly for its capital city, which is reliant on the oil, gas and energy sector.

"The academy fills a critical role by training professionals for emergency situations and equipping companies to run more efficient and flexible operations," he said.

During the academy's launch, Dr Tayeb Kamali, Chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology and Head of CERT, spoke on behalf of Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, about the importance of practical, hands-on experience for employees.

"The Emirates Simulation Academy was established to train students with effective methodologies, help improve their operational and emergency skills and the application of real-life simulation of industrial facilities across the UAE, therefore creating a risk-free environment," he said.

The academy aims to be the leading technical academy in the region by providing accurate real-time simulation of industrial facilities in the UAE and Middle East, equipping professionals with operating standards and skills, and allowing them to stand out in the world as the most competent operations personnel.