Carmakers helping to train future workforce

THE SHORTAGE of technical professionals in the auto and IT sectors in Slovakia, caused mainly by the large recent foreign investments into the field, continues to make life difficult for companies in these industries. Various strategies have been proposed to fill the gap, such as improving the Slovak school system, but achieving real change could take several years.

Kia has given schools cars for training purposes in an effort to improve the skills of graduates.
photo: TASR

THE SHORTAGE of technical professionals in the auto and IT sectors in Slovakia, caused mainly by the large recent foreign investments into the field, continues to make life difficult for companies in these industries. Various strategies have been proposed to fill the gap, such as improving the Slovak school system, but achieving real change could take several years.

Carmakers in particular have realised that unless they lead the way in changing the education system, the workforce will take longer to acquire the necessary skills than they can afford to wait. With this in mind, the French PSA Peugeot Citroen and the Korean Kia Motors Slovakia have made arrangements with the Slovak government and various schools and universities to ensure a sufficient supply of qualified labour in the years to come.

Kia Motors Slovakia

On October 11, 2006, the top officials of Kia Motors Slovakia met the representatives of 4 universities and 14 secondary schools near Žilina in northwest Slovakia to explore ways of making work experience programs more useful, of improving the link between theory and practice, and of boosting cooperation between schools and potential employers.

The meeting resulted in an agreement to launch various educational activities, including training and work experience programs, and consultations between Kia managers and students on their final-year theses.

Kia Motors Slovakia's side of the agreement includes providing the schools with 20 cars to help students deepen their technical knowledge and to better prepare them for work. The students were also given 24 engines, 10 chassis, 12 airbags and other car parts.

Žilina University, the Bratislava University of Technology, the Košice University of Technology, and the Alexander Dubček University in Trenčín will have a chance to use the Žilina Education and Training Centre in Gbeľany. They will also be able to watch videos of Kia's production process, as well as visit the Kia plant in Teplička nad Váhom.

In addition to training programs and expert consultations, university students will be offered the opportunity to take part in research projects at the plant. The company will also offer the universities lectures given by its experts.

Students from the 14 secondary schools will also be able to make use of the training centre in Žilina and to have access to videos of plant production methods, as well as to obtain practical experience at the plant.

"The main priority for Kia Motors Slovakia is to become a top company. We would like to be a respected and responsible partner not only for our employees, customers, and suppliers, but also for schools, which I consider to be crucial partners in the area of human resources," said In-Kyu Bae, president of Kia Motors Slovakia.

"It is especially important for us not only to maintain but also to improve our cooperation with universities and secondary schools in Slovakia and in this way to help increase practical experience and improve the preparation of students and graduates," the Kia executive said.

Ján Bujňák, the vice-chancellor of Žilina University, said the program would help the universities: "It will not only help us with our work experience programs, it will also increase our students' qualifications and level of professionalism."

PSA Peugeot Citroen

Cooperation between PSA Peugeot Citroen and the Slovak education system was launched in May 2005 with a deal signed by top PSA representatives, the Slovak and French education ministries, and Slovak regional government bodies. The purpose of the agreement was to integrate the experience of the European specialised education system into the Slovak education system.

Under the terms of the deal, Peugeot Citroen organises training sessions for Slovak lecturers who then pass on their knowledge to the current and future employees of the Peugeot Citroen plant.

The French carmaker, through its daughter company PCA Slovakia, is installing technical equipment and teaching aids in specialised learning rooms at selected schools and universities. PSA cooperates on the project with one university and three specialised secondary schools in Trnava and Bratislava. The company is investing more than €3.3 million into new equipment for the schools and the training of lecturers.

"The primary goal is provide what is needed for the training of our Trnava plant employees through the Slovak education system. The length of the training for our employees is estimated at 1.8 million hours. This system will later help other Slovak students," Barbora Šípošová, PCA Slovakia's human resources director, told The Slovak Spectator.

The education process will be administered by PCA Slovakia until 2007 to ensure that the carmaker's needs are met. After 2007, the equipment will become the property of the Bratislava and Trnava regional governments, and will be administered by the schools where it is located.

The French Education Ministry will provide teachers to guide the educational process during its initial stage. The training will be managed so that Slovak teachers are able to take over from the French trainers as soon as possible.

The program involves the Bratislava University of Technology, the Vocational Secondary School of Machinery in Bratislava, the Vocational Secondary School in Trnava, the Vocational Secondary School of Transport in Trnava, and the State Institute for Vocational Education.

In addition, the French investor intends to renew interest in technical subjects and the natural sciences in Slovak schools, and is preparing a special project for younger children. The "Roll Up Our Sleeves" program for elementary school children aims to increase the quality of teaching in subjects related to technical professions. Its philosophy is that children will be attracted to technical subjects and the natural sciences by learning the basic laws of nature.

"For the Education Ministry, the benefits of this collaboration are the modernization of the education system, the refurbishing and construction of school premises, and the establishment of new rooms and technologies for vocational education in the schools," said Mária Príkopská, director of the vocational education section of the Education Ministry.

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