The Volkswagen Educational Institute was founded in 1990 with a look into the future of automotive production. Today, nearly thirty years later, it is a cutting-edge global facility.
On the 14th of December 1990, just weeks after German reunification, Volkswagen founded its Bildungsinstitut, or educational institute. Nearly thirty years later, Karl Krist, the institute’s first Managing Director, remembers those historic moments.
“Volkswagen was one of the first and largest investors in East Germany, with several locations in Saxony. I was sent from Wolfsburg to Zwickau to explore the possibilities of setting up an educational institute. Of course, it smelled of coal and Trabi exhaust fumes. And my room from Monday to Friday was a simple student dormitory. But the people were highly motivated! I really got to know wonderful technicians, who never let themselves get down,” Krist recalls.
Determination first and foremost
It took just two months to prepare the first training area; at the same time, they introduced themselves to the city administration, the employment office, which was only just being established, and other institutions. The determination of everybody involved allowed them to overcome bureaucratic difficulties, and in the spring of 1991 they started training the first 100 people – by the end of the year, they had trained more than 1,000.
The courses focused on technical training, management training, leadership, and education itself, as well as EDP (Electronic Data Processing), as called for by the then Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Regine Hildebrandt. And they were not just for Volkswagen employees, but for people in the entire region.
A high-quality offering
“In the 1990s we had an incredible competition in the training field. In Saxony alone there were 200 educational institutions – most of which were founded by West Germans, but Volkswagen’s quality established itself in the long term. The teachers and lecturers came from the Group: from Wolfsburg, Kassel and Braunschweig. Initially, there was a great demand for orientation and information courses on German structural, organizational and legal issues. Later, we also trained social and financial topics: How does the market economy work? How does the tax system work? In 1993, we founded a welding technology training centre in the former Sachsenring halls. Even Kurt Biedenkopf, then President of Saxony, attended the inauguration. Our facilities were so modern that we received praise from experts,” Krist adds.
The situation in Germany
Today, the Volkswagen Training Institute is a well-established organisation, with 112 companies as customers, offering 14 training vocations, six dual courses of study and more than 200 further training courses, which also take place around the globe: Russia, China, Mexico, India, the USA, Portugal and Brazil.
The 135 employees who work at the educational institute are trainers, coaches and pioneers in innovative areas. They not only work at the three German locations in Zwickau, Chemnitz and Crossen, but are also continually moving around thanks to the support of over 90 educational partners, including universities and technical colleges throughout Germany.
All over the world
In Zwickau, the focus is on vehicle production topics, in Chemnitz on engine topics and in Crossen on service training. In 2010 a professional course was set up in Kaluga, Russia, to support the activities of the local plant. Courses for further technical training have also begun in India and Mexico, such as specific ones in the removal of dents without causing damage to the paintwork, a skill which is also highly sought-after in service workshops.
In conclusion, after almost 30 years of training at the Volkswagen Educational Institute, 3,920 apprentices worldwide have successfully completed their vocational training, and almost 100,000 people have completed further training courses. Annual turnover has now exceeded the 15 million Euro mark, with two thirds coming from within the Group, and one third externally.
The investment in Zwickau
The Volkswagen Group is investing 1.2 billion Euros in Saxony, where production of the ID.31 has started. In 2021, once the expansion will be completed, in Zwickau 330,000 electric cars will be produced each year : six models for the Group’s Volkswagen, Audi and Seat brands.
In order to support this program, 8,000 employees are being trained up: 3,500 on new technical skills, with 300 training topics covered for the new MEB platform alone. To date, 300 managers and foremen have received special training, and 1,500 technicians have acquired the so-called high-voltage driving licence.
The future of the Volkswagen Educational Institute
The trainers have a high level of knowledge and professional expertise, but above all curiosity: key characteristics for keeping a step ahead, having an excellent network of contacts and understanding what know-how will be needed in the future. All this while also continuing to work on areas such as after sales, which will change drastically due to electric mobility.
As for the Volkswagen Educational Institute, the available space is currently being used to its limit, and so a future expansion is planned in order to be able to offer training topics on all aspects of future mobility, including from the perspective of third parties and suppliers. The secret of the institute’s success is still the same: simply find out what will be in demand in five or even ten years’ time.
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