ENLARGING the pool of qualified applicants from which the automotive industry can choose suitable labour is one of the most pressing current issues for the industry in Slovakia.
However, it is not only carmakers and car component producers that feel the lack of qualified labour: schools and regional governments also realise that if they do not educate the labour force for the automotive industry, which has one of the greatest employment potentials in the country, Slovak unemployment levels will remain high.
And so several new cooperative projects between the industry and schools were recently announced.
The education and training of a qualified labour force is definitely a challenge for Slovakia's automotive industry, Vladimír Machalík, the spokesman for Volkswagen Slovakia, told The Slovak Spectator.
"A flexible labour market and a sufficient number of qualified employees are preconditions for expanding the production capacities of the car plant and its network of suppliers," said Peter Švec, spokesman of PSA Peugeot Citroen Slovakia.
The car factories have a big impact on both regional economies and the national Slovak economy, Peter Kubica, spokesman for the Žilina Region, told the SITA newswire. He said that car production requires a different kind of training than that currently offered by the school system in Slovakia.
Schools in Žilina Region respond
Beginning with the next school year, five secondary schools in the Žilina Region will institute a new project titled Creation of New Educational Programmes in Professional Education for the Needs of the Car Industry, designed to educate students to work in the modern car production industry.
A new training specialisation, "machinist - expert in car industry", will be introduced in the participating schools. The secondary schools will be equipped with a model classroom, up-to-date computer technology, videos, and data-projectors. Graduates in the specialisation will be qualified employees prepared to accept jobs in specialised workplaces in factories, mass car production, and car component production.
"The curriculum will be closely connected with practice: for example, education in foreign languages will focus on expert terminology, history will be enhanced with the history of cars, and practical training will be offered in the car factories," Dana Weichselgärtner, the head of the education department of the Žilina Region, told SITA.
The Secondary Technical Training Institute in Kysucké Nové Mesto, the Secondary Construction Training Institute in Žilina - Bôrik, the Comprehensive Secondary School in Rosinská cesta in Žilina, the Comprehensive Secondary School in Dolný Kubín Kňažia, and the Comprehensive School in Martin joined the project under the auspices of the Žilina Region. The Žilina Region is also co-operating with the State Institute of Professional Education in Bratislava on the project.
Volkswagen Slovakia introduced the degree programme "IngA" - Engineer in the Car Industry - in which it cooperates with five major technological and business universities in Slovakia, on February 21. IngA is a unique project between Volkswagen Bratislava and Slovakia, which is so far the only country from among the countries where Volkswagen operates to have instituted the programme.
The IngA programme is offered at the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava, Žilina University, the Technical University in Košice, the University of Economics in Bratislava, and the Trenčín University of Alexander Dubček, the SITA newswire wrote. The project will offer both students and their instructors insight into the industry.
Volkswagen implemented the project with a view to becoming a top company worldwide, Andreas Tostmann, chairman of the board of directors of VW Slovakia, told SITA. "We can reach this goal only by acquiring top employees, and thus we decided to form closer ties with universities, so that we can help them educate future graduates," Tostmann said.
Jaroslav Holeček, a member of the VW board of directors, said that the programme will have several stages and, in the end, the company will reward the best graduates with a chance to work for the company.
"In order to motivate students, we offer five students, one from each faculty, a paid internship in the car factory," said Holeček, adding that for those interested in working immediately, a one-year training programme with a short-term internship abroad is also being prepared.
The investment in the IngA projects so far amounts to Sk1 million. "The project is not demanding financially, but is crucial for the future," said Holeček.
Starting January 1, 2008, the training premises and equipment which PSA Peugeot Citroen Slovakia built for training its employees at the schools mentioned above were made available to the entire automotive industry, said Švec.
The French carmaker started this "Campus of Professions" cooperative programme with the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava and three vocational secondary schools in Bratislava and Trnava in 2003, investing €8.1 million in the project.
The first phase of the Campus of Professions project was coordinated by the French Education Ministry and PSA Peugeot Citroen. This stage was accomplished by 2007, when the training facilities were made available to meet the needs of the entire industry, said Švec.
With press reports
3. Mar 2008 at 0:00 | Marta Ďurianová