Sangeetha Justine, working as a junior signal engineer in Alleppy in Kerala, created history by becoming the first railway engineer to have obtained an online certificate having attended e-classes conducted for the first time by Indian Railways Institute for Signal Engineering and Telecommunications (IRISET) headquartered on the Secunderabad-Tarnaka road here.

She is among the 60-odd junior engineers who were part of the maiden batch cleared after the institute was forced to launch online classes following the COVID-19 lockdown. “We were caught unawares and had to come up with new strategies because we need to keep the refresher courses going for the railways to function as these engineers are key to safety,” sys Director-General S.K. Goel, in an exclusive interaction.

IRISET not only trains fresh recruits but also junior and senior engineers needing to undergo the mandatory once-in-three-years refresher courses. Classes are important because the railway telecom and signalling subjects are not part of any engineering curricula and are imparted only after joining railways.

“It was a challenging time for us to reorient our faculty and students for online courses because we had to get everything ready from scratch, right from ensuring sturdy internet connectivity to getting course material attuned as there was no readymade material available,” explains the DG.

IRISET has been conducting residential classroom sessions since its inception in 1957 in the verdant 28.3-acre campus. Mr Goel is elated as 372 officers and 728 supervisors got trained through 28 online courses conducted for the first time in the past two months. Besides, 17 webinars covered 1,853 railway personnel.

The DG is clear that telecom/signal engineers need to get hands-on experience of machine functioning to understand the dynamics, along with field visits, so it was decided to hold such ‘classes’ within the next one year after online certifications whenever restrictions on movements are relaxed. Railway Board had permitted them to function in their respective roles till then.

This has not only led to saving of ₹1.5 crore travelling allowances but also enabled trainees to stay at home/offices to attend courses with flexible timings. Reluctance of senior engineers to travel and divisions not wanting to relieve them for long periods got sorted out with online classes.

IT upgrade

“This is an unique opportunity to transform by providing training at the doorstep. We have now sought ₹7.5 crore for IT upgrade for taking every course online and perhaps, even reduce mandatory three-year refresher course to two years covering more personnel,” says Mr. Goel.

First web trainee Ms. Sangeetha testifies: “Online classes have been top class. We were in the comfort of home/office and for working mothers like me, I could take care of my child too instead of travelling from Kerala to Secunderabad. The e-course also bought a personalised teacher-student experience to each one of us.”

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