The manufacture and use of explosives, propellants and pyrotechnics underpins a significant part of EU economic and industrial activity. An understanding of explosives science and technology, and the competence to harness it is central to maintaining European Explosives capability, national security, and in sustaining a competitive European industry. A consequence of eroding this competence is the increased likelihood of explosives accidents. These are often catastrophic as demonstrated by accidents in Nigeria, Russia, Toulouse and in Enschede where 1000, 118, 31 and 21 people died respectively since the start of the millennium. In addition to the serious loss of life there was the very significant damage to homes, domestic and industrial infrastructure and to the environment at a cost of many millions of euros.
There is a perception and some evidence that in Europe competence in this key technological area is being eroded. In several member nations a high proposition of the most experienced and knowledgeable personnel are retiring or nearing retirement. Urgent efforts are therefore underway in some partner nations to replenish this expertise.
In year 2004 the first EUExcert project started with the aim to establish a training and education programme aimed at restoring and maintaining the competence of workers engaged in European explosive business. The programme places increased emphasis on improving the quality of the educational material and in improving access to training through use of workplace and e-learning. Improvement in competence and skills will enhance the status of explosives workers, improve worker and public safety and improve European industrial competitiveness though greater worker mobility and the ability to react rapidly to a fast changing economic and industrial environment.
To achieve this aim the partners in the programme conducted a comprehensive analysis of explosive business conducted throughout the EU. It identified for each member state, the size and scope of the explosives worker community, from top management level, to technician and process worker level. It identified the competencies and skills required by these workers, in order to successfully prosecute the full scope of explosives business. This was accomplished through close consultation with stakeholder organisations in each of the member nations. An inclusive framework illustrating all of the required competencies will be established.
The training and educational needs of the community of explosive workers was then determined in relation to the required competencies. A comprehensive programme of education and training was developed utilising the widest range of training and educational methods, ranging from traditional classroom-based teaching, workplace learning and electronic learning. These were developed and delivered by a range of educational establishments, including universities and higher education institutions, professional bodies, trade union organisations and specialist further educational authorities. Pilot training and education programmes were developed and tested in several member nations. Proposals were presented outlining the need for a range of transferable qualifications for workers in this specialist field.
The results of the work were widely disseminated through a programme of reports, demonstrations and presentations to stakeholder groups in the member nations. A network of interested individuals and organisations were encouraged to promote the concept of a world class European explosives community.