The second day of the study visit comprised of visits to three employers
1. Luznar Mechatronics– Family run company (35 employees) producing printed circuit boards in particular for the gaming industry. They provide placements for students of I.C.T. and mechatronics, varying the WBL plan accordingly.
This company was highlighted by the WBL coordinator as being exemplary in its design of a comprehensive learning plan for the student’s placement. This made the company an exceptional place for completing work placement. They designed a cyclical model of training such that the students visited all areas in the production of PCBs and were in a more informed position going forward as to the areas they may wish to pursue further study. For them it was important to make the placement interesting for the student and it was evident they wished to inspire and encourage the profession.
In taking on the student they wished to speak in person with the young person to understand their background, goals and interests. From there they would decide if they could provide a suitable placement.
Although there is one official mentor with the completed training they explained in reality the student has 20 mentors, a mentor in each of the production areas. Employees were encouraged to involve the students in the work and not just have them observe.
For the employers, they liked getting to know how younger people like to work. They also wished to encourage students to be open minded (not everything can be learned at school) ,have care for detail and to be logically minded. It was also highlighted by the managers the best student academically is not always the best employee as they must be multi-functional and able to work well within a team.
Also the employer felt a sense of achievement if the student was happy with Luznar and considered it a good place to work. The student could also act as an ambassador for the company beyond placement. If a good student worked with them they would be happy to offer them employment if possible in the future. In their experience with WBL so far, students hadn’t presented any problems.
As the company was a family created and run business the current manager learned many of the necessary skills from his father. Students who are not afforded this informal education come from school having learned a lot but not necessarily prepared enough to apply their knowledge in a practical sense. ‘Practice is different than just learning.’
2. Lotric Metrology– 83 employees across a number of plants
Lotric have been cooperating with SEGS since 2008. They are also learning from the students. Like Luznar they endeavour to give students a stimulating environment to learn and grow. Also for this company they seek employees with specific technical skills and so it is in their interest to work with schools in ensuring they have suitably skilled candidates to grow their business in the future. Lotric is actively involved with a consortium of 14 different schools with regard to the 20% open curriculum.
Interestingly the director pointed out when students were on their breaks they often were not using this as an opportunity to network and build relationships with other employees. Instead students often spent this time on their phones. When hiring it is important to select candidates who will not only be a good fit in terms of knowledge and hard skills but also with the ability to cooperate and work as part of the team. Perhaps students should be aware their social interaction is also important to their training and encouraged by their schools and mentors to interact with employees in an appropriate manner.
In general the company didn’t discuss the students attire, attitude and general manner from the outset unless they felt this was necessary. However there have been occasions when they have had to speak with students regarding same.
When hiring the company would look favourably on a candidate who had completed some training with them during their second or third level education. However coordinating the needs of the company and the student after WBL is difficult as when there is an opening the student may well still be studying.
Shorter placements of only 2 or 3 weeks act more as a disruption and do not provide enough time for the student to be a position to learn enough to contribute and carry out support tasks.
3. Janez Janic – Small company painting, signboard painting and siding
With this employer we had the opportunity to speak with a student and employer engaged in an individual contract. This individual contract is the closest a student can get to an apprenticeship within the Slovenian VET system. However the college is encouraging individual contracts and hopes there will be more in the future. One of the main mitigating factors to a low number of individual contracts in the lack of verified learning placements who can meet the criteria to offer a student an individual contract.
The student felt he was gaining more experience and learning at an accelerated pace than his classmates on collective contracts who had significantly less on-the-job training. The student was paid €150 p/m plus a bonus.
As it happened his father was acting as his mentor . Also this student could not complete tasks without the supervision of his mentor or an adequately qualified employee overseeing the work. The student still attended school on a weekly basis to partake in core modules.
In all cases students
- approached the companies based on their reputations
- desired to work with their respective company in the future
- wished for more or extended on-the-job training
In general the employers pointed out :
- Students need to learn the to put their phone away whilst in the work place
- Students should ask questions and understand by doing so they are showing interest
- Shorter work placements weren’t practical and disturb the general work more
- In terms of greeting , giving thanks, using the correct language and tone in speaking with senior employees and managers , students need a greater awareness and competency in this area