"When I get to school in the morning, I grab a reader about a specific subject. I read up on all the theory and do the corresponding exercises. If there’s something I don’t understand, the teacher will explain it to me," Gerrit-Jan describes his typical day in school. "When I think I understand the theory, I will do the appropriate test."
The theoretical part of the education is taught at Deltion College in Zwolle. Although this school has been offering mechatronics courses for years, the training education our colleagues are getting is a bit different and has therefore been given the name Mechatronica038. Teacher Marten Jongsma from Deltion: "We usually train our students to be ready for a job at all companies in the region. Which is why we have designed the educational content in close cooperation with the regional business community. This will train all students to become good mechatronics technicians. However, we will not train these students in only the systems and techniques that TDC uses a lot. For example, the Beckhoff systems are not part of the regular programme. Because TDC, together with companies such as Masevon, Veldkamp and Stevast, can guarantee a continuous intake of students, we can provide this company-oriented training.”
Practical assignments, focused on TDC
For the development of the additional curriculum, Marten has been released from other tasks by Deltion, for one day a week. Together with Frank ter Riet (documentation at TDC) he makes additional, theoretical training materials and develops practical assignments. Frank: "With only theoretical knowledge you will not become a good mechanic. You must be able to apply it." Soon there will be an extensive database with practical assignments. All colleagues – not only the ones in Mechatronica038 – can practice new skills with these assignments. "It’s under development," emphases Frank. "We have started up Mechatronica038 quickly. We are developing the company-specific part of the training while our colleagues have already started the training."
Getting used to the school desks
For the employees in training, it is actually nice that they did not have to go full-blast with theory and practical assignments. For some of them, it has been at least ten years since they last sat in a classroom. "I really had to get used to that," says Mark. "Therefore, it’s good that we have a fixed school day. On that day I can really focus on learning."
"It depends on the subject you’re studying, how relevant is seems to be to your daily job,” Gerrit-Jan explains. "We need to do mathematics. I know, it’s great to know how to calculate the angles of a triangle, but in practice I don’t think I will use it. At this moment, I’m learning about sensors. Which is very interesting. As an electrician, I place the sensors in a machine, and now I understand how they work and how they determine the operation of the machine."
Broader knowledge, so better service mechanics
Gerrit-Jan and Mark think the broadening of their knowledge is the biggest benefit of the program. Mark: "For example, I hardly know anything about electronics. For the simplest things, I have to get a colleague involved. I would appreciate having some basic knowledge. In that case, when I’m on a customer’s site, I can solve simple things by myself. That’s what will make us much better service technicians."
Practical guidance in the workplace
Mark and Gerrit-Jan are looking forward to finding out if they are already better mechanics thanks to their days in school. "It’s up to me to come up with a plan to show what I’m capable of in daily practice," says Mark. To do so, he is getting support from Frank, who is the appointed practical trainer for colleagues in training. Every four weeks he discusses with him what they want to practice in their everyday job and how they are going to prove they are capable of doing it for real. Frank: "The idea is that they point out what they want to learn and also indicate when they think it's good enough. In addition, we pay a lot of attention to soft skills. For us as a company, it’s becoming increasingly important to record what changes we apply to a machine, which failures we encounter and how we have solved them. Therefore, working with programs such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint are part of the Mechatronica038 curriculum."
Workplace supervisors in action
Randal Spaan, Paul Huisman and Bram van den Berg confirm how important it is to share more information within the company. They are involved in the training as workplace supervisors. Together with Jan Schakelaar, Arend Luten, Gert Turien and Henk Jan van Dijk, they mentor the students in daily practice. "We ensure that there are practical assignments available, help them on their way and also assess whether they really have the knowledge to do certain tasks for real," explains Bram. "If they perform practical assignments, they have to report on them and briefly present them through a PowerPoint presentation," says Randal. "That does not have to be extensive, but it has to be clear in explaining what you do and then sharing it with colleagues."
Spending time and effort is worthwhile
Thanks to this approach, workplace supervisors clearly see the benefits of Mechantronica038. They are happy to invest time and effort in it. Paul: "It’s important to make time for it. And not just us, as workplace supervisors, but also the colleagues who are studying. Bram: "In the end it does not really take time, it saves us time. While a colleague is spending time on a practical assignment, he’s not working on one of our platforms, but afterwards, he can apply the additional knowledge on a daily basis. In the long run that’s much more beneficial.”