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Car association repairs breakdown

LESS than a third of all high school graduates with certificates in auto mechanics can easily find jobs in their profession. It is not because jobs are scarce. It is because the applicants are unqualified.

Real-life, hands-on experience increases skills.
photo: TASR

LESS than a third of all high school graduates with certificates in auto mechanics can easily find jobs in their profession. It is not because jobs are scarce. It is because the applicants are unqualified.

Old school equipment and little hands on experience are to blame. The pitiful level of young car mechanics is astounding in a country that is starting to claim the auto industry as its economic mainstay. As more auto makers move into Slovakia, competent mechanics will be in greater demand.

The Car Industry Association of Slovakia decided the time had come to improve the dismal situation facing its aspiring car maintenance workers. Together with the Guild of Car Dealers and Maintenance, the Education Ministry and the Higher Territorial Units administrations, the Car Industry Association established a mechanics pilot project in 13 secondary schools.

"The aim of the pilot project is to eliminate a lack of quality workers in auto maintenance professions," Stanislav Pravda from the Car Industry Association of Slovakia told The Slovak Spectator.

According to Pravda, schools churn out a high number of graduates in auto maintenance professions but their skills are so minimal that only 20 percent find work. He said that auto mechanics demands special learning abilities and requires highly skilled teachers.

"Lack of finances as well as practical training has caused the sad results in these professions," Pravda said.

That is why the Car Industry Association of Slovakia and its partners think it is reasonable to concentrate its resources on 13 schools. It wants to provide quality to a limited amount of graduates and test the results.

Pravda feels that the Slovakia's previous education programme did not meet the demands of the labour market and caused problems not only to maintenance centres that employed new graduates but also to car component manufacturers and suppliers.

The pilot centres, which launched this month, provide education in four basic car maintenance professions: car mechanic, electrician, painter and chassier. All students take the same programme in the first year of their studies and start to specialize in their second year, choosing among vehicle dealers, store technicians, car electronics and sales administration works.

Hands on training at actual car factories using real machines is part of the pilot project. Additionally, the schools are equipped with special laboratories, training rooms and professional literature.

Apart from teaching secondary school students, the pilot centres provide re-training of existing workers in the car industry and at car maintenance centres. They also provide teacher-training programmes.

PSA Peugeot Citroen and KIA Motors Slovakia, two companies in the process of opening car factories in Slovakia, are optimistic about the pilot centres. Both believe that the centres will make the recruitment process easier.

"Of course we have come in contact with the pilot project," enthused Barbara Šípošová, the human resources director at PSA Peugeot Citroen in Trnava. She expects the initiative to positively impact the entire industry in Slovakia.

Although PSA Peugeot Citroen is not cooperating with the association's pilot projects currently (they have their own education centre), she sees the possibility for future cooperation.

Dušan Dvořák, head of the communications department at KIA Motors Slovakia, thinks pilot centres are beneficial for the car industry as a whole and that it is only a matter of time before KIA becomes involved.

"We provided the association a basic description of the needed professions for our plant. We believe that the centres will help give the workforce the skills they will need to get jobs when they graduate," Dvořák told the Spectator.

The recruitment process for PSA Peugeot Citroen and KIA Motors Slovakia has already started. So far the companies have focussed their efforts on management. The main wave of hiring hundreds of workers has yet to come. Workers for stamping, chassis, painting, assembly halls and engine production are still needed in KIA Motors Slovakia. Car mechanics and electricians for facility maintenance have still a good chance to land positions at PSA Peugeot Citroen.

Pilot centres can be found in secondary schools in Bratislava, Senec, Trnava, Galanta, Nové Zámky, Nitra, Zlaté Moravce, Bánovce nad Bebravou, Banská Bystrica, Lučenec, Martin, Prešov, Košice.

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