The WMO Global Campus initiative has sparked action for increasing collaboration to support the capacity-development needs of Members. The two components of the WMO Regional Training Centre (RTC) Argentina – the University of Buenos Aires and the National Meteorological Service (SMN) – have taken a lead. How does a university and a National Meteorological Service collaborate at local, regional and global levels to stimulate a revolution in meteorology training?
The University of Buenos Aires has a long history of meteorology education. The Department of Atmospheric and Oceanographic Science (DCAO), established in 1955, was one of the first institutions officially recognized as a WMO RTC. This recognition, together with financial support from WMO, enabled many Latin American students to obtain degrees in meteorology when there were no opportunities in their own countries. The University offers the added value of free tuition for national and international students. DCAO has world-renown professors with access to the latest advances in training and research. It has recently started to offer an introductory course in meteorology that is open to all regional, Spanish-speaking university students and graduates via distance learning.
SMN became an RTC component in 1983, offering regional on-the-job and classroom training. Over the years, rapid advances in technology have increased training demands, and made training even more critical to success. SMN has, therefore, strengthened its national and international training commitments to support the development and maintenance of skilled workforces and bases all its learning outcomes on WMO competency frameworks.
SMN has adopted new technologies and approaches to promote active engagement of students. Distance learning has significantly boosted training opportunities. The SMN Moodle learning management system allows wide reach into the region. It offers easy access to improved training resources, quick revisions, appropriate learning tools for challenging learning activities, and a means to connect people and ideas through discussion forums. SMN now offers both online and blended training with national and regional coverage (WMO Regional Association III and IV, Spanish-speaking countries). The response has been overwhelming: there were over 180 regional participants and over 200 national participants in eight online courses in 2017.
How can two such different institutions develop a lasting, healthy relationship? Each has a specific role and must perform it with excellence and for the benefit of the other. But the gap between theory and practice is well known. Collaboration is essential for understanding and benefiting from each institution’s unique needs and capabilities.
Collaboration for local improvement
The University is working towards revising its curricula to be more aligned with the current basic instruction packages for meteorologists and meteorological technicians, and continuous dialogue with SMN helps to focus efforts. Collaboration has been enhanced as SMN supported development of the operational components in the new curricula.
The University and SMN work together to transfer current research into operation through training and to provide reliable operational data for research. The University also welcomes SMN operational staff to attend courses to update their knowledge and skills, allowing them to register without being regular students. WMO competency frameworks and guidelines help the two RTC components use a common language, which smooths the way for the partnership.
Strong theory plus good practice equals reliable training, which enables professionals and technicians to achieve the standards required for their jobs. However, difficulties remain in keeping pace with advances due to limited financial and human resources. Further collaboration is seen as a way to enhance efficiency.
SMN finances scholarships for University students who may eventually enter the meteorology profession. SMN professionals serve as professors and trainers at the University, with some final courses hosted by SMN. This obviously benefits the University, but also benefits SMN because it is essentially shaping future professionals. In addition, the trainers themselves improve their knowledge and skills during the process.
Collaboration for regional improvement
The RTC components are also eager to meet the learning needs of WMO Members in RA-III and IV. They have accomplished this by working with the WMO Education and Training Office – as well as other supporting partners and institutions – to help lead the WMO Online Course for Trainers for RA-III and RA-IV, and by hosting the WMO Training Development Workshop in Buenos Aires.
These courses have inspired innovative solutions, motivated improvements, and increased participation and sharing in the region. The bilingual Training Development Workshop organized in 2016 highlighted a further need to bridge language barriers to maintain up-to-date knowledge and skills.
A change in mindset occurs as courses are transformed into active, student-centred learning environments, using online capabilities to connect worldwide, or generate face-to-face bonds. Opportunities open up. It is the international community, mobilized by WMO, that has made this possible. Such collaboration produces strong, direct and positive effects, which are transformed into action plans, achievements and better services.
The training community of practice, CALMet, has been another venue for innovation for the RTC, through its online and face-to-face conferences.
Collaboration for global improvement
The RTC components recently worked on the international WMO/Coordination Group for Meteorological Satellites Virtual Lab (VLab) project Conceptual Models for Southern Hemisphere, managed by EUMETSAT. Five countries were involved. The collaboration led to the development of a workbook for the application of conceptual models for forecasters (supported by WMO) and the new GOES-16 satellite training programme.
Both RTC components took part in developing recommendations from the WMO Education and Training Symposium in 2017. This included the recommendation that RTCs and other training institutions share resources and strive to develop relationships to advance training and capacity development.
Argentina is part of the global collaboration that is already taking place, but much more can be done. Participation in regional and international projects – where the experience and knowledge of experts from northern and southern hemisphere centres are brought to bear – can lead to the development of highly valuable training resources that can be applied worldwide. For example, the southern hemisphere circulation surprises many northern hemisphere professionals when they see South American weather maps. Including southern hemisphere cases in meteorological training courses will increase the knowledge of graduates worldwide.
Argentina’s RTC components have experienced the advantages of working together in a global community. They know how to join others in the region and in the world. But a strategic plan is needed, an organized structure for continuous collaboration/cooperation/coordination, so efforts and achievements can be followed through.
The WMO Global Campus is ideal for an international educational hub, a revolution in meteorology training that strengthens bonds. Argentina’s RTC components support the Global Campus initiative.