Статьи журнала "Современное образование"

Bolat Ryskaliyev: secrets of success. “Astana Polytechnic” College is 30 years old

Modern technical and vocational education in Kazakhstan has undergone major positive changes in recent years, as a result, college education has become popular and prestigious. The “money follows the student” market mechanism of placing state contracts at colleges of the applicants' choice has helped to identify the leaders of the system. A cohort of the most advanced colleges has emerged, providing high quality training and guarantees of great career prospects.
Such a college is “Astana Polytechnic”, whose 30th anniversary is marked this year. The competition among applicants is almost five people per place. Applicants go to this college not just for a profession, they go for innovation and knowledge that are ahead of the labour market trends. We asked Bolat Ryskaliev, the Head of “Astana Polytechnic”, to tell us about the work of the college and share the components of its success.
– Bolat Kulmukhanovich, the college is a modern educational institution and highly rated in the republic. How did the staff achieve such results?

– “Astana Polytechnic” Higher College positions itself as an educational institution whose mission is to meet the needs of the state, employers and students. This is expressed in the college's constant interaction with all interested parties, thorough analysis of the needs of the labour market, search for new opportunities for cooperation and expansion of external relations. All work in the college is aimed at achieving integration of the educational process and production, and close links with companies is one of the effective mechanisms in increasing the graduates’ competitiveness in the labour market and guaranteed employment.

Along with the rapid development of technologies around the globe, the requirements for training personnel are changing progressively. The strategy of the college is to create all conditions for obtaining quality knowledge, to educate highly-qualified personnel and to provide employment by qualification.

Currently, the core of quality education at “Astana Polytechnic” is a renewed educational and laboratory complex in the form of three academic buildings, a workshop and a students’ canteen. The college has a professional, creative teaching staff that is not afraid of changes and innovations in the modern educational space, primarily due to the fact that today knowledge becomes outdated rather quickly. This is due to the transformation of the labour market, widespread digitalisation and the emergence of new global trends in training staff for different sectors of the economy. Therefore, the key principle of the college is a high level of training in essential skills and professional competences.

“Astana Polytechnic” Higher College is a leading educational institution in the educational market of the republic and the capital, which was formed from five educational institutions of the city by merging in 1994 the Technical College of Transport Construction and the Mechanical Engineering College, joining in 1997 the Tselinograd Road Technical College and the Tselinograd Construction Technical College under the Ministry of Agriculture, and Astana College of Energy and Communications was also included in 2020. “Astana Polytechnic” has absorbed the best of what has been formed in these educational institutions for decades - personnel potential, educational technologies, bases for industrial practice, which helped to train professional staff for different sectors of the economy.

“Astana Polytechnic” has been more than once awarded the title “the Best College of the Republic” and is among the top colleges of the Republic of Kazakhstan according to the NJSC “Talap”, received a grant from the Mayor of Astana as the best educator of technical and vocational learning.
– Today colleges operate under the conditions of academic independence, defining the content of educational programmes. Is this reflected in the training of specialists?

– Yes, to date, technical and professional education system diverged from regular model programmes linked to the terms of training. Colleges have gained academic independence, working with employers to develop educational programmes based on professional and WorldSkills standards, determining the content and terms of training. This enables us to conduct high-quality training of specialists, flexibly respond to the changing requirements of the labour market, introduce something new and relevant in the training process for all qualifications. Today, we regularly update the content of educational programmes, enhance tutors’qualifications, attract global brands to create modern laboratories, resource and training centres at the college, including CISCO, RedHat Academy, Festo, “KNAUF”, “TechnoNICOL”,“Bosch Thermotechnik”, “ALINA”, “GROHE”, Professional Certification Centre with CERTIPORT company and 1C Certified Training Centre.

Competence centres are equipped with high-tech “smart” equipment and the latest brand collections. These centres offer everyone an opportunity to receive additional education, and upon successful completion of the programme, students receive certificates of international standards. For this purpose, the college is synchronising the learning process with leading technologies and strengthening material and technical base. The above-mentioned laboratories and training centres have already become training sites for 21 competencies of WorldSkills Kazakhstan participants, taking into account the requirements of WSK international standards, under the guidance of tutors who have received the status of international experts including E. M. Kasymova, S. A. Lapenko, D. N. Rakhimzhanova, S. P. Kerimov and experts-compatriots.

Our college uses a credit-modular competence-based approach. After the completion of the professional module, students take a demonstration exam according to WorldSkills standards as an intermediate certification. Following a successful pass, a Skills Passport is issued, which is a confirmation of the acquired skills and competences, which in turn serves as a basis for employers to select qualified specialists. For example, those who completed “Software Developer” after successfully passing the demo-exam receive Skills Passport in the competence “Web Technologies” focusing on “Maintenance, repair and operation of road transport” – in “Automobile Technology” (“Maintenance and Repair of Cars”), “Radio, electronics and telecommunications” – “Information Network Cabling, etc.
– Let's talk about the professional prospects of applicants. Do you think their choice of college today is more likely to be purposeful or random? When do students get an opportunity to get in touch with real production, to get their first earnings?

– Our college is highly ranked among the educational institutions of the capital city. In 2023, the number of students applying for training was 2,517, including 552 students who were enrolled in the first year under the state educational order for training personnel with technical and vocational, post-secondary education at the expense of local budget funds. These are mostly ninth-grade graduates. Most applicants' choices are purposeful. The choice is influenced by the relevance of qualifications, quality education, social partnership of the college and employment prospects. Whole generations trust us - if parents studied, they bring their children, i.e. family traditions are formed to acquire education in “Astana Polytechnic” Higher College.

Over the years, the college has established partnerships with various companies and businesses, which offers students professional internships, work placements, practical training and job opportunities after graduation.
Studying the first vocational module at the end of the first year, students start to get in touch with real production. They receive their first earnings during their second or third year of industrial and professional internships.
For example, students of “Mechatronics” on professional practice in LLP “United Consolidating Centre” perform mechanical processing of parts and products, control of removal of cast parts and products, monitor the work of pushers, removal of parts and products, etc., this practice is paid from 100 thousand to 200 thousand tenge per month. LLP “Trial-PV” pays 200 thousand tenge per month to a student undergoing professional practice in “Accounting and Audit”. Each college discipline is reinforced with such paid internships.

We try to monitor the progress of our graduates and are very happy that many of them have built successful careers. We are proud, for example, of the graduates of “Interior Design, Restoration, Reconstruction of Civil Buildings”: Bekzat Zhaydarov – the founder and commercial director of the popular interior design studio “Bonnie and Clyde Art Studio” and Design School “Start Education”, Aidana Yerimbet is the Head of the famous interior design studio “Yerimbet Aidana Design”; “Construction and operation of buildings and constructions”: Sergey Baskakov – the Head of LLP Construction Complex “AstanaTransStroy”, Nurlan Dyusenbaev – the Head of LLP “Aru-Zhol”; "Maintenance, repair and operation of road transport”: Olzhas Kuspekov – an MP of Mazhilis Chamber of the RK, Gani Dyusenbekov –the Head of KG Chem Kazakhstan; “Software”: Nariman Nuralin - CEO of the company “NAIRA Group”, Alexey Anisimov – the Head of Product Development LLP “KazCloud”; “Organisation of hotel service”: Assel Demeu – HR-manager in Rixos President Astana, Artem Kozodaev – the Head of the popular restaurant “Sushimen”; “Accounting and Audit”: Baurzhan Utegenov– the Head of Specialized Children and Youth Sports School of the Olympic Reserve No.6, a state coach of Adapted Physical Education in inclusion, cycling judge, Master of Sports in Cycling of the RK, Indira Mussina – the Head of the Department of Planning of Operational Performance of the JSC branch “NC “Kazakhstan Railways” – “Directorate of Mains”; “Tourism”: Yana Konkel - the Head of “Fun & Sun” travel agency in Astana, Aigerim Khusainova – the Head of ‘Let's go with us’ travel agency in Almaty.
– Do many students who graduate from college go on to higher education? Does the college assist in preparing for admission? Do you have certain partner universities?

– On average, 28% of graduates continue their studies at higher education institutions. The college has established partnerships with leading universities, such as S. S. Seifullin Kazakh Agrotechnical Research University, A. Saginov Technical University in Karaganda, “Yessi” University, “Turan-Astana” University, where graduates are trained according to individual learning paths, which makes it possible to shorten the training period for young specialists to enter the labour market as soon as possible.
– The core of the success of any educational institution is a skillful teaching staff. How do your educators cope with the need to be always on trend?

– Indeed, staying on trend all the time is not easy. Continuous relevance of knowledge can only be ensured by an experienced team of tutors who are able to keep up with trends in the profession, regularly update their teaching accounts, and are not afraid to apply modern teaching methods.
Our tutors, including O. N. Peshkin, S. A. Lapenko, E. B. Tusupov, D. V. Popov, J. E. Abdrakhmanova, S. E. Muhammedia, K. Sh. Mazhitova, T. G. Stasishina, constantly introduce innovations, are not afraid to experiment. The course “Programming of microcontrollers on the basis of Arduino” is run within the framework of industrial training for technical programmers, web applications are developed using the Yii2 framework, Git version control systems, case technologies, training forms of education, ICT-technologies, CLIL-technologies are used in classes on special disciplines.
Microsoft Visual Studio (C# programming), Java programming, cloud technologies, Amazon, Microsoft Azure, and Cisco platforms, Networking Academy, RedHat Academy are being used for training. Graduates do real diploma projects of information systems on the BMC IO Framework and Arta Soft platform, based on the concept of smart technologies, where there is a close integration with production.

The level of training of construction technicians depends on mastering new and popular systems of computer-aided design and modelling KOMPAS 3D, ArchiCAD, AutoCAD, CorelDraw, 3D MAX and others. These programmes are successfully taught by college tutors: А. H. Shoshabay, D. D. Zhanmurzina, M. G. Gabdulla, J. G. Nurkeev, S. S. Zhakiyanov, О. A. Vishnevskaya, G. O. Nauryzova. 3D modelling is implemented on the basis of Building Information Model (BIM) - a technological platform for building information modelling. Since 2018, the study of BIM-technologies has been added to the educational process, within the framework of which students learn Auto Desk Revit, RengaArchitecture programmes. Thus, the college is already in the process of training new specialists - BIM designers. The co-operation with existing partners in “SmartAstana” and “Smart House” projects is also expanding.

On practical lessons, tutors B.K. Alkenov, E.G. Chingayeva, A.M. Kydirkhanov, A.A. Yelemesov, G.M. Abenova use modern diagnostic equipment of the electronic control system of the car (electric car, Carman Scan, Auto Boos, B-Touch), training system COM3LAB.

The college tutors carefully monitor the professional development of their students and help them to shape the skills necessary for a successful career in their chosen field.

The qualified composition of tutors plays a crucial role in shaping an effective learning process. Today, the teaching staff of the college consists of 90 full-time tutors, including Associate Professor, candidate of pedagogical sciences, a master teacher, 26 teacher-researchers, 16 teacher-experts, 31 teacher-moderators, 20 teachers with Master’s Degree, 3 doctors of philosophy, 8 masters of industrial training. The most important component of the learning process is students' motivation to learn. Only qualified tutors can skilfully inspire students, cultivate their interest in the learning process and their future job. This is confirmed by numerous victories of our students at international, republican and municipal contests and conferences, prize-winning places in WorldSkills competitions, various Olympiads, creative readings, etc.
“Astana Polytechnic” Higher College today is a guarantee of quality education under the guidance of experienced professionals who convey relevant knowledge and practical skills to students.
What is your relationship with employers in general? These links are often more formal in educational institutions. Are there many bright examples of mutually beneficial symbiosis with companies, businesses? What motivates your employer partners?

– A close co-operation with companies is one of the effective mechanisms in increasing the competitiveness of graduates in the labour market. The college works with more than 200 social partners, including Freedom Telecom, KazTeleSystem, Bitelecom, Special Economic Zone Astana, Astana Invest, Ramada by Wyndom, IMBC, Arman-Tour, Centre-Tour, Altyngazservice, Bazis Construction, BI Group, Astana-Imstalkon, Centre-Audit, Astana Technoinvest. They are constantly interested in training qualified professionals. Work on the introduction of dual training has been intensified. Trilateral agreements were signed with 21 companies, including JSC Kazakhtelecom, Autoland car service network, Aster Auto Astana, Mega Motors Astana, Bus Park No. 1, Hyundai Premium Astana.

Training of the personnel is carried out at the request of employers, including a target order with four companies to prepare 30 students, internships for tutors and masters of industrial training are conducted, and, most importantly, the issues of employment of graduates are solved. The result of this work is the competitiveness of graduates and their usefulness in the labour market. Being on work placement in the third year, 30% of our graduates get jobs and the employment rate of graduates comprises 72 per cent.
The required skills essential for the competencies in the training of specialists are constantly changing, and within the framework of academic independence we have an opportunity to change the content of educational programmes in accordance with the demands of the labour market.
For example, experts from Finex Standart, Astana Transstroy, United Consolidating Centre, Tamur, Arman-Tour, Kazakhstan Accounting Service Centre participate in the development of educational programmes. During the period of cooperation, many of our students have successfully completed professional internships at these companies, acquired skills essential in the labour market, and were successfully employed.

Employers are motivated to co-operate with the college for several reasons. First of all, their participation in the development of educational programmes makes it possible to train specialists in accordance with professional standards and the requirements of the labour market and the specifics of the profile of certain industries. A staff with all the necessary skills is essential for the success of businesses. The college provides access to young professionals who can become potential employees. Co-operation with the college also enables employers to give their employees regular training, professional development opportunities.
– There is a lot of talk now about colleges being able to finance themselves through their own production bases. What do you think about it? You may have a very wide range of options in this regard. How is the process going on, do you earn a lot?

– The idea of establishing production bases at Kazakhstan’s colleges makes a lot of sense and has a great potential. This can facilitate students’ practical learning by giving them an opportunity to gain real work experience in their field. Such bases can be a source of additional income for colleges through the provision of services or the production of goods for sale. It would also contribute to the development of the regional economy by creating jobs and stimulating entrepreneurial activity.

However, for successful realization of this idea, it is important to consider various factors such as availability of resources, skills of personnel, market needs and level of competition. It is also important to provide effective management and funding. If all these aspects are taken into account, college manufacturing bases can be a meaningful addition to the educational process and economic development of the country.

For our staff and me, our college is firstly an educational institution that currently educates over 2,000 students. The educational process remains a priority.
The College runs short-term fee-paying courses in various directions to complement the core educational activities and to meet the demand for specialised training.
These courses focus on the acquisition of specific skills and professional competences in areas such as web development, mobile robotics, graphic design, network and system administration, mechatronics, drawing and painting, interior design for advanced learners, engineering graphics CAD, IT solutions for business, plumbing and heating, light vehicle maintenance and repair, accounting (including 1C and taxes), basics of entrepreneurial activities, electronics, “Smart House” management system, driving vehicles (category “B”), conducting excursions, tourism and sports training, hotel administration, estimation and pricing in construction and others.

The advantages of such courses include accessibility to a wide range of learners, flexible class schedules, intensive study of the chosen topic and an opportunity to quickly acquire new knowledge and skills. The courses are also an additional source of income for the college.

In general, short paid courses are an attractive option both for students looking to expand their professional reserve and for the college wishing to diversify its educational activities and generate additional funds.
– Your college is an active participant of the WorldSkills movement and is a base for training participants of the movement in 21 competences. How does it reflect on the graduates’ employment? Are all the students, who are active participants of WorldSkills, in demand on the labour market, or is Skills Passport not a hundred percent guarantee of future employment?

– You are right, “Astana Polytechnic” College is an active participant of WorldSkills movement of all levels. The work goes on in promoting the movement and work qualifications. The work brings positive results. The proof is the achievements of our learners.
At the Worldskills Astana 2023 city championship of professional skills, our students won 21 gold medals, 9 silver and 4 bronze medals, at the republican stage – 1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze and 3 medallions:
“Plumbing and Heating” competence – 1 gold, participant Yaromir Kolobaev, Group Г-21-3б; “Network and System Administration” – 1 silver, participant Danil Lapenko, Group П-20-53к; “Web design and development” – 1 bronze, participant Mansur Uldanov, Group П-21-57к; “Graphic design” – 1 medallion, participant Elizaveta Dehnich, Group Ис-20-11б; “IT Solutions in Business” – 1 medallion, participant Nikita Vasilenko, Group П-20-51б; “Brick Masonry” – 1 medallion, participant Ilyas Sabyrov, Group С-21-13гб. Darkhan Kaparov won the second place in the same year at the “Professionals” championship held in St. Petersburg in the competence “Software Solutions in Business” with the support of the college partner, training centre “1C-Kazakhstan”, and a year earlier college students got a bronze at the Eurasian championship in the “Entrepreneurship” competence.

Participants of the WorldSkills movement gain tremendous practical work experience, and this makes them more competitive in the labour market and gives them great employment prospects. For example, Ilya Orlov, a participant in the “Hotel Receptionist” competence, after winning municipal and national championships, represented the country at the world championship in Switzerland and now successfully makes a career in the seven-star hotel “Burj Al Arab Jumeirah” in Dubai.
Bolat Kulmukhanovich, you have extensive work experience as a Head in different colleges. What do you think is of prime importance in the work of the college? What does the atmosphere, the mood of the learners depend on? Can we designate these priorities?

– Indeed, I have been able to work as a Head in colleges located in different regions. This experience gives me a broader perspective on the effective functioning of the college as a well co-ordinated mechanism to train highly required personnel. I can highlight several key priorities in the work of the college.

The first is the quality of education, innovation and adaptation. The primary mission of the college is to present high quality education and academic success for students. It implies tutors’ quality, availability of various resources in training and supporting students for their academic achievements. The College must be ready for changes in the educational environment and quickly adapt to new technologies and teaching methods to meet the needs of students and the current labour market.

The second moment is support and care for students. It is important when the college supports students in various aspects of their lives, be it academic support, employment and career support, physical and psychological health, etc.

The next important factor is the comfortable atmosphere and culture in the college. Atmosphere in college can greatly affect students’ mood and motivation. This includes tutor-student relations, community engagement, cultural diversity, and support of students’ initiatives.
The College should also provide ample opportunities for students to develop the personal skills necessary for a successful career, such as communication, critical thinking, leadership, problem solving and collaboration, through participation in training organisations, projects and leadership training programmes.
And, undoubtedly, it is necessary to develop students’ social responsibility, i.e. to promote students’ understanding of their role in solving social and environmental issues, as well as to encourage their participation in activities aimed at solving them, in volunteer work.

Given only all these aspects, the college will be able to create a complete, comfortable educational environment that strengthens successful learning, multi-faceted development of students and their readiness for future careers and life in society.
– Your wishes to all applicants, parents who are still thinking about going to the college.

– To those who are still thinking about going to college, my wish is: get introduced with different colleges and programmes to find one that matches your interests and life goals. Focus on your school achievements during your school life. Seek help and advice from parents, teachers and guidance counsellors if necessary. Remember that choosing a college is an important decision, a step towards your personal and professional development in a particular field.

I wish parents to support their children in their pursuit of education and professional development. Encourage and help them in the process of choosing a college and profession. Make sure your child recognises his/her interests and ambitions when choosing their future career. Remember that every child is unique, and parental support and understanding play an important role in his/her success.
Questions asked by
Alexander PETRUKHIN

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