Workers across Australia will have the opportunity to learn how to operate programmable CNC machines and lathes, with RMIT University launching two new online short courses for beginners and advanced operators.

The Centre for Digital Enterprise (C4DE), a partnership between RMIT University, Wodonga TAFE and Sunraysia Institute, has  collaborated with Okuma Australia to offer workers throughout Australia the opportunity to learn how to operate and program the latest Computer Numerical Control machines used in advanced manufacturing. By offering the courses fully online, it not only means that learners from anywhere in Australia can benefit from this new program, but it highlights RMIT’s readiness to innovate and quickly pivot to digital models of learning. Both courses are in line with the current trends toward industry-tailored, short, bite-sized segments of learning to upskill and reskill workforces rather than undertaking full qualifications.

These courses are aimed at addressing the potential impacts that new smart skills and Industry 4.0 are having on the Australian workforce. C4DE Senior Manager Stephen Joyce said that digital skills in advanced manufacturing will be vital in driving job creation in the post-COVID economy.

“We designed these courses to fill a gap in Australian industry,” said Joyce. “There are many different CNC machines used in businesses across Australia and employers often struggle to attract and retain workers with high level programming and operational skills. Working closely in partnership with one of the largest suppliers of CNC machines, Okuma Australia, we have been able to develop up-to-date courses accessible on computers or mobile devices. And while the courses are built around Okuma machines, the knowledge obtained is transferable to all CNC style machines.”

To support this online training, the C4DE has also released a free app for mobile devices to support those learning new digital skills in Industry 4.0. XR LearnHub, available on the iOS App store, enables students to experience augmented reality learning experiences on mobile or tablet devices. The App includes a full-sized, augmented reality (AR) model of a virtual Okuma multi-axial lathe machine and information about Industry 4.0.

The CNC Operator – Introduction Course introduces basic CNC terminology, operations and programming. It is ideal for people with minimal or no knowledge of CNC machines, for metalwork practitioners who have a Certificate III level qualification, or for people with an interest in CNC technology – such as engineers, industrial designers and manufacturers who want to develop a better understanding of how to design for and/or implement these building techniques into their production or design environments.

The CNC Operator – Advanced Course is for practitioners already working as a CNC operator/machine setter/quality controller with intermediate skills. It is intended for practitioners wanting to expand their skills to take on new duties or employment opportunities around CNC machines and to enrich their programming and high-quality finishing skills in a modern Industry 4.0 setting.

Students who have completed the CNC Operator – Advanced Course will soon also have the opportunity to gain practical experience on CNC machines through face-to-face CNC Operator Advancing Skills Days (subject to the easing of Covid-19 restrictions). These small group, face-to-face single training days will be offered in five locations across Victoria: Melbourne, Wodonga and at Sunraysia Institute’s Mildura, Swan Hill and Horsham campuses (with interstate options to potentially follow).

The development of both of these courses was supported by the Victorian Government.