Voith Hydro is a complete system supplier that produces turbines and generators for the world’s hydropower stations, from the smallest to the largest. Like many companies, Voith has developed numerous internal training programs to help train new hires and improve the skills of longtime employees. However, it has also opened similar courses up to its clients and the public through the Voith HydroSchool. The HydroSchool offers a wide variety of courses on the design, modernization and rehabilitation of turbines and generators and the operation and maintenance of hydropower plants. In this interview, Inna Kremza, Voith’s hydro customer and educational training manager, tells Hydro Leader about how the HydroSchool was started and the important benefits it provides to customers today.
Hydro Leader: Please tell us about your background and how you came to be in your current position.
Inna Kremza: I have a degree in electromechanical engineering from the Polytechnic University of Odessa, Ukraine. Shortly after graduating, I came to North America, without a clear idea of what I was going to do with my life. I was fortunate to start my career in the hydro business with Voith about 24 years ago. I have mostly worked in our engineering department, which has many different divisions. As a technical expert with extensive experience throughout the hydro industry, I was selected to lead Voith’s HydroSchool.
Hydro Leader: Have you been based in Canada during your entire time at Voith?
Inna Kremza: I participated in Voith’s career development program and have worked in Brazil and Germany as well as Canada.
Hydro Leader: How long have you been associated with the Voith HydroSchool?
Inna Kremza: My involvement in this training program started about 8 years ago. The HydroSchool actually started as an internal Voith initiative. There were a lot of newpeople joining the company, and we were looking to help them become familiar with Voith products and their roles within the company more quickly. I had the idea of creating a Hydro 101 class. The class was popular and got a lot of positive feedback.
Voith recognized that the hydro industry workforce was aging and decided to create a HydroSchool under our hydropower service organization, Voith HyService. I enthusiastically got involved as a trainer. I already had teaching experience from my role in the Hydro 101 class, which had become one of Voith’s most-requested trainings. I loved the teaching experience, so when the opportunity came, I asked if I could lead HydroSchool in North America.
Today, I work with engineer-trainers, helping them to develop presentation skills and focusing on how they can better engage with clients. I also work closely with our clients to better understand their requirements and help them bridge the knowledge gap for new employees.
We started the HydroSchool with a lot of enthusiasm. To develop our training, we needed to follow the methodology and standards summed up by the term ADDIE: analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate.
Hydro Leader: Is the HydroSchool certified or accredited?
Inna Kremza: The HydroSchool complies with the standards of the International Association of Continuing Education and offers continuing education units.
Hydro Leader: What are some examples of the types of training that Voith provides, and who generally takes the training?
Inna Kremza: The training can be delivered in many formats. These include traditional classroom training, on-the-job training, and online training, which is popular today.
The most common training we provide is a dedicated training performed at our clients’ locations. The training is customized to meet their needs and is often helpful for those who are planning a big outage or modernization project for a power plant. We bring our experts on site and conduct the training there. We support clients in their decisionmaking processes with training that is based on real case studies and best practices.
The other type of training occurs when the equipment is already installed, and personnel need to be trained on how to operate and maintain it. This training is more hands on. We work at the power plant and perform real-life simulations of the equipment operation.
I should also mention the open courses that are provided through our Hydro Workshop. The Hydro Workshop has become a Voith tradition and takes place every 2–3 years. This event is in demand from our clients because it is a great opportunity for them to meet Voith experts and leaders from the energy industry. Our last Hydro Workshop took place in November 2019 in York, Pennsylvania. Turnout was high; attendees included representatives from both government-owned and private facilities across North America.
The workshop started with a full-day training program focused on the design of turbines and hydro generators. There were also 2 more days of technical sessions covering technical topics such as horizontal machines; small hydro; and digital technology and service topics, such as how to repair turbine blades, how to address stator winding failure, and how to clean a generator in order to extend its service life.
The workshop incorporated technical tours, including a tour of the Voith mechanical shop, which has state-of-the-art machinery, and the hydraulic lab, which is the only one of its kind in North America. In this lab, Voith engineers do model testing on scaled-down 3‑D prototypes of turbines that will be installed in hydropower plants. That enables us to tune the design’s cavitation behavior and its other performance parameters before building full-scale machines.
Workshop participants also had the opportunity to visit a local hydropower plant to see the equipment in operation and network with some of their peers. As you can see, this program is versatile and gives our clients a great opportunity to learn about hydro design and hydro manufacturing.
It’s important to mention that HydroSchool is international, so not only do we train people in North America, we also host people from around the world.
Hydro Leader: When do you expect your next HydroSchool training to take place?
Inna Kremza: Unfortunately, we have postponed our traditional in-person trainings until 2021 because of the COVID‑19 situation. However, in the meantime we are offering online trainings for our clients. We recently completed a 2‑day online operations and maintenance training for one of our clients. We also completed a series of free webinars on technical topics. The webinars offered a collaborative approach that enabled the learners to interact with each other as well as with the trainers. Communicating with our customers is important to us, so we are staying connected through these virtual events.
Hydro Leader: What types of safety training do you provide?
Inna Kremza: Safety is a top priority for Voith. Every single training session we hold includes a safety topic. We also offer a full-day training course called Safety by Design. It covers the principles that designers have to follow to ensure the safe operation of a power plant or any component. The training is based on the idea of engineering reliability and is designed to protect people, the environment, and our client’s investment.
It wasn’t easy to create an effective class on this topic. For years, our engineers collected case studies from around the world. During the training session, we review these case studies to learn from them.
As engineers analyze the case studies, they apply Voith’s principles on how risk can be minimized and identify safety measures for the power plant’s owners. It’s one of my favorite training courses because it’s engaging and interesting. Even small challenges in hydro can affect safety, and we teach participants to identify those risks. For example, a poorly built road to a power plant can cause the loss of equipment during transportation.
Hydro Leader: What should all your customers and potential customers know about Voith’s training programs?
Inna Kremza: Our training programs have been created to help our customers train their personnel. At the end of the day, training is all about performance. One of today’s greatest risks is an unprepared workforce. We need a trained and skilled workforce to have better performance in the operation of power plants. The HydroSchool provides added value to our customers. We offer e-learning as well as traditional classroom training and hands-on training. We are also working on a new training that will be offered in a blended format. We customize our programs and prepare learning objectives to meet our customers’ needs.
Hydro Leader: Aside from the shift to online courses caused by the pandemic, what trends do you see in hydro industry training?
Inna Kremza: Technology is always changing, and we are moving into the digital world. Voith is launching a new 4.0 training platform called DRIVE: Digital Readiness Ideation Velocity Engagement. We’re creating a new, flexible, user-friendly training platform that will allow our clients to customize their training based on their goals.
Online learning will be a big part of it. DRIVE puts knowledge at the learner’s fingertips whenever they need it. It will provide on-demand training sessions accessible at any time on any computer. It is currently an internal initiative; later, we will open it to our clients.
Hydro Leader: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Inna Kremza: Voith’s HydroSchool is ready for your readers. Learning is an important part of professional development. I’ve been at Voith for 24 years, and I am still learning every day. I always welcome opportunities to do so. Creating the HydroSchool was one of the best initiatives I have been part of.
Max Spiker is a senior advisor for hydropower and electric reliability officer at the Bureau of Reclamation. For more about the Bureau of Reclamation, visit www.usbr.gov.