2012 Human Resources Special: Reporting live from the 'Bentley Room'. . .

The VW Academy teaches a three-year course in mechatronics which is a mix of mechanical, electronics and informatics.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 19 Dec 2012 Views icon4688 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Volkswagen India first announced the opening of its training academy at its plant in Chakan earlier this year. The first-ever mechatronics batch of 14 trainees (recruited in September 2011) are now the second-year trainees, while the second batch has recently begun their first year.

German engineering is renowned for its excellence, sophistication and attention to detail. I had an interesting assignment – to spend nearly three hours at the VW Academy where it all starts, quite literally, from the blackboard. Curious to explore what is taught to the young talent and what the curricula aims at achieving, I met Vijayan KT, assistant general manager, HR & Administration – Training, VW India, who works hard towards creating an efficient work culture at the facility. “According to a general study, any human being does non-value-added unnecessary activities for 60 percent of his time. Forty percent of the time goes into doing the necessary but non-value-added activities while only five percent is spent doing the real value-added activities,” he explains.

The VW Academy teaches a three-year course in mechatronics which is a mix of mechanical, electronics and informatics. The curricula is based on the German dual education system which comprises vocational as well as practical training. These curricula have been designed in Germany but tweaked to suit the local trainees at the Chakan plant. Nevertheless, the modules that comprise the curricula are the same as that imparted by VW’s other academies in other parts of the world.

Who are these students and how did they manage to enter a vocational and the hands-on training at the highly-automated VW plant? “We invite applications from schools falling within the range of 40km from our Chakan plant. The 10+2 pass students must score a minimum of 60 percent in PCM (physics, chemistry and maths). The applicants have to write our in-house exams such as MSA (maths and science aptitude) and English. This is followed by multiple tests such as practical tests, hand and eye coordination tests, memory tests, freehand sketching tests and personal interviews. This year we received 450 applications, of which we selected 16,” says Vijayan.

Teamwork pays

The standard batch of 16 trainees is divided into two groups of eight each that makes for a good faculty-student ratio of 1:8. It all starts with an induction programme. The first year focusses on imparting basic skills in the areas of metal work (turning and milling), electrical circuits and electronics, pneumatics, hydraulics, functioning of sensors and robotic arms.

Spending some time watching the first-year students working in the ‘metalworkshop’was indeed an experience. One witnesses teamwork, taking joint responsibilities and a discrimination-less attitude towards work of any kind that is sought to be inculcated among the students, which our basic education system still lacks and more or less we learn them in our jobs. Four groups of four trainees each were working on the ceiling-suspended ‘energy tapping outlet’ with electric and pneumatic applications. I also observed that various equipment was kept intact at their respective places with positions marked on the floor space. Once the session got over, the students not only kept their toolboxes in the pre-defined order but also cleaned the equipment and had the floor cleaned.

Vijayan then shows me the ‘sorting station’, made by the first-year trainees, which sorts the plastic and metallic blocks using two mini-robotic arms and a sensor principle.

“This station is created from scratch by our first-year trainees as a group assignment. Even the basic metal sheets are properly cut, basic electrical circuits are laid out to control the sensors and small robotic arms. Once these trainees enter into their second year, this station will be completely dismantled and all parts will be stored in the store room for the next batch to recreate similar applications,” he explains.

In their second year at the Academy that begins in September, the focus shifts to practical work alongside the vocational training with basics of welding (metal work) and advanced levels in pneumatics, hydraulics, robotics and PLCs (programmed logic controllers). The trainees are also given hands-on responsibilities in areas such as shopfloor and robotic labs at the VW plant during the second year. The third year is designed to consolidate the imparted knowledge and skill sets.

“Our aim is to pay special attention to each student and ensure that he passes our final exam in the third year. Once they pass, they are awarded with the ‘national apprenticeship certificate’ along with the ‘Volkswagen-internal certificate’. After that, they will be either absorbed in our plant or are free to apply to another company,” says Vijayan. The first, second and third-year trainees are paid a stipend of Rs 3,000, Rs 4,000 and Rs 5,000 per month respectively.

Vijayan adds that the course is designed to equip each trainee with several key techniques from multiple areas (mechatronics) which would eventually reduce manpower, promote automation and self-dependency. It endorses the values of teamwork where there are no independent responsibilities. These values convert into increased efficiencies and help reduce waiting time in the final production.”

Rooms with a name

The VW Academy also conducts employee-specific programmes designed according to the respective hierarchies. The employees taking part undergo a one-day assessment and group discussions. The Academy also houses many classrooms and conference rooms (named after company-owned brands and models such as Bentley Room – induction room, Up! Room, Polo Room and others), IT lab (includes 11 workstations each with 1 TB processor), automation lab (equipped with PLC kits and Interbus – optical fibre communication kits used in robotics), robotics lab (with two robotic arms – for general programmes and application-oriented exercises) and other facilities. The curriculums are updated regularly, thanks to the Indian HR team which plays a pivotal role in not only implementing but effectively managing the entire setup. “The VW Academy was set up after careful planning and work of 18 months by 19 Indians and two Germans (one from a vocational school and a VW employee),” reveals Vijayan. The VW Academy also conducts the programmes for the sales and marketing teams across all VW Group in-house brands which in itself is a separate institution.

Though I had to wrap up my tour of the Academy due to time constraints, I look forward to going back to this 'school'.

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