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Educating the next generation of Corrosionists - a big challenge ahead !

Materials.Business Newsletter ⚙️ February 27th, 2024


Educating Corrosionists, a duty more severe than ever 


 We are not prepared 

Some people say that the three oldest and most stable institutions worldwide are the army, the church, and the university because their conservatism has been a “protective shell” for centuries. Here we include education and the educational system. The Panamanian “eduprenour” Ana Lorena Fabrega did a graphical benchmarking showing us how different today’s industries like telecommunications, computing, music, television, and aerospace are (shifting from the Wright Brothers and Santos-Dumont to the Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos aircraft), compared to where they were a hundred years ago. Besides, the educational system has remained essentially unchanged since the 19th century. Fabregas concludes that our educational system is obsolete, and we as actors of such a system don´t doubt that. 
On the other side, concerns about global warming and the sustainability of the Earth as our home are growing fast. The Effects are becoming more than evident, and catastrophes are increasing permanently. Also, the sustainability of our current society is putting us at risk, as has been shown with the coronavirus pandemic. Environmental and social sustainability is the biggest threat humanity has ever faced. The challenges are more complex than ever, and the solutions needed could not be more simple. Socio-economic concerns have been amplified by accelerated technological disruption through confinement, including automation, virtualization, and digitization of many parts of jobs. A situation where technology is competing not only with our skills but also with our talent. Threats for workers at all levels, including Corrosionists in many field labors (e.g., inspection), but also in the lab (because of robotic R&D), in the plant (because of robots), or in the office (because of artificial intelligence, etc.). That means a severe impact on different sectors, including industry, academia, and services.  The labor market is changing profoundly in both interest subjects and how to do the jobs. One of the immediate consequences has been the emergence of the so-called GIG economy or a labor market characterized by free-lance and short-term work contracts. Work is changing too, but education is not yet! 

A call for action 

As a countermeasure against such huge risks, probably the main established driver has been the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the Agenda for Sustainable Development promulgated by the United Nations six years ago. The SDGs reflect a strong recognition among nations, businesses, and non-government organizations of the need to improve economic, social, and environmental conditions worldwide as the only option for a promising future for our descendants. Moreover, it is becoming increasingly clear that sustainability is closely tied to the protection of materials. Human development is supported by the possibilities of materials. The planet is finite, materials are becoming scarce, their production and usage are the main reason for the anthropogenic causes of global warming, prices increase permanently, and access to high-quality materials consequently increasing inequality. The SDGs are 17 and looking at the list, it is easy to conclude that materials handling and protection are directly related to most of them. Of course, one of the starting issues is SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) 4 – Quality Education. The correct answer to the challenge of proper materials handling starts with the education of people. In particular, the appropriate education of professionals in charge of materials and asset protection, Corrosionist working now, and the new generations to be prepared must receive the best teaching and training for threats mentioned initially. 

From call to action. Switching to move 

One of the spaces for discussing how to improve (or disrupt, if possible) higher education is the International Academy of Technology, Education and Development – IATED. A conference on education and new learning technologies is organized every year, and the 16th will be held at the beginning of March (EDULEARN24). One of the papers presented in the 2021 edition, was entitled “Concept-based corrosion education – can experiential learning and case stories help?”. Authors are four experienced and renowned professors of corrosion from three different countries, and three various programs: Maria Victoria Biezma (University of Cantabria, Spain), Paul Linhardt (Technische Universität Wien, Austria), and Isha DeCoito & and Yolanda Hedberg (The University of Western Ontario, Canada). This range of criteria and experiments led to an analysis of the current situation of corrosion education in Europe and North America, and, finally, proposing some well-proven practices in teaching corrosion science and engineering. Authors started by recognizing a shortage in Corrosionists, associated with a low priority of the topic within the academia, resulting in a low number of professors and a gap of chemistry knowledge with engineering students, and vice-versa, a gap of materials knowledge with the chemistry students.

Finally, a big difference between academic vision and actual requirements in practice—a multidisciplinary question that needs to be resolved by universities in the face of the threats and challenges. The procedure of the study aimed to assess the relevance of some of the known active learning methodologies on corrosion learning, seeking to link theoretical concepts and practical applications. Finally, four teaching strategies have been established as recommendations that can follow, seeking to improve corrosion education’s impact and reduce the gap between the university and the world outside. In principle, the strategies are both curricular and extracurricular, and in their background, there is a much better collaboration into the frame of the Triple Helix Academia-Industry-Government. In addition to all the theoretical fundamentals required, education and training must be accomplished with self-learning supported by a strong linkage with practice by didactic practices such as storytelling of actual cases, outdoor sightseeing tours, field trips to industrial sites, and industrial guest lectures.
We can say that this is one of the ways that we can promote from academia, the industry, and the government. Also, we can say that there are many others to be developed. However, time is of the essence, and we must hurry to prepare the Corrosionists the world needs: More open-minded professionals, with a deeper specialization, but simultaneously strongly transversal, innovative, entrepreneurial, resilient, and able to face the world. This is the very purpose of the Materials.Business podcasts and newsletters, to close the gap and provide tools to the new generations to have a more robust toolkit to face the waters of life, work, and the balance between the two.

Significant threats, grand challenges, but great Corrosionists are ready to answer expectedly. This is an issue of the Triple Helix, but we, the Corrosionist, have the ethical duty of promoting the change. 


Special thank you to Carlos Arroyave and Carolina Hernandez for his contribution to this edition!  

Corroded boat being admired by tourists - perhaps one corrosionists among them

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