Prof. Juray Sinay: “Further education requires cooperation between universities and companies”

Prof. Juraj Sinay is the President of the Slovak Automobile Association ZAPSR. During his many years working as a professor at the Technical University in Kosice and as an honorary doctorate at Wuppertal University, Juraj Sinay made a strong commitment to the international exchange of education. In an interview with local global he talks about training measures, opportunities and improvements in terms of employee empowerment by companies.

What role does vocational training play in the future development of the Slovak automotive industry?

In my opinion, VET plays a strategic role. The high number of car manufacturers and suppliers already results in a shortage of manpower and especially of skilled workers. It is indispensable for the state to devote itself more to the vocational training of the youth. Without the formation of the next generations, there is no chance for the further success of the automotive sector in Slovakia. Especially newly established companies rely on a good training of specialists to meet the demand for work.

What experiences has Slovakia made with dual training?

The law on dual education was only passed in March 2015. Within the last few months not much experience has been gained with the new dual training. Nevertheless, it is an advance that the law was introduced at all. The automotive industry supported the introduction, as we are very interested in this form of education. Unfortunately, the practice has shown that there are still many vulnerabilities and that they urgently need to be revised.

Keyword “Industry 4.0” – How important is digitalization for the automotive industry and how is this influencing training?

Industry 4.0, digitization, the Internet of Things has long been an integral part of the automotive industry. Starting with the material planning, up to the production, as well as the feedback and repair of the cars. The digitization process has progressed very quickly in the automotive industry.Although we have already introduced special training occupations, such as mechatronics, where IT and mechanical engineering are connected. But the training will be even more intense in the direction of IT applications. Nevertheless, it should not be forgotten that the process of production is always a classic process. Metals are to be processed, assemblies are carried out, bodies must be painted. That is, the specific processes are preserved. For this, the corresponding digital modifications must be developed and the experiences passed on to the next generations. That is probably the biggest challenge for the industry.

How should / should the cooperation of state educational institutions and private companies be?

The state is responsible for the education of society, no matter in which country. The only question is how the requirements of the state are compatible with the needs of the industry. Especially when the language comes to Slovakia, this connection has been greatly neglected in recent years. The new law on dual education illustrates exactly what an important role the state plays in education. 80 percent of the Slovak companies are foreign-owned, so it is also necessary to talk to the parent companies and find an agreement. Most of the vocational training takes place in the industry, and more discussion and agreement is needed in favor of future generations.

What role do inter-company institutions play in this?

The inter-company facilities must first and foremost know exactly what the competences of the apprentices are. For this a constant dialogue with the companies and the state is indispensable. In order to optimize education and teaching, outside institutions, businesses and the state should form a triangle and be in constant exchange about education. It must be noted what the industry needs and how apprentices can best be supported.

Who should run these facilities?

It would be best if Chambers of Commerce and Industry would operate such facilities. The membership of the companies creates an excellent platform to bundle the interests of the companies. In Slovakia, this is very difficult as there are no such chambers where compulsory membership is by law. The Slovakian associations are very interested in founding similar institutions. Unfortunately, it is not possible to predict how the exact development will be here.

What is your opinion on cross-border exchange programs like Erasmus +?

This has been my area for many years, and for that I have been involved in my time as a university professor. I find this program very helpful, but it is a pity that only a limited number of students are offered the possibility of an exchange. At large universities, with eg 10,000 students, only about 100 can participate in programs such as Erasmus + for financial reasons. That is very little. I argue that such exchange programs should be developed and improved at the multilateral level. The opportunity for students to gain experience abroad for a few months or a semester is of enormous benefit to their future. That’s why I strongly support concepts like Erasmus +.

How do you see the permeability between the different levels of education?

It should be noted how the connection between Bachelor and Master can be created. In Western Europe, the Bachelor’s education is similar to the Fachhochschule education. There was no such thing in Eastern Europe. The structures of higher education in Europe were very different. I see the permeability in Western Europe very easily, many students are already used to this system and strive for the Bachelor’s degree to complete the Master. Based on the different educational structures, no clear statement can be made. For the permeability between the schools and subsequent study or training, I see no problem, since even for Eastern European school leavers the opportunity exists to study abroad.

How can small, medium-sized companies and suppliers improve their chances on the job market?

Small and medium-sized companies are the backbone of the industry, especially in the automotive industry, without suppliers, the manufacturers could not produce a product. With the demand for a high-quality product, in turn, suppliers and manufacturers are charged. I see the future for small and medium-sized companies as very positive. Germany is a good example: 86 percent of the gross national product is achieved by small and medium-sized enterprises alone.

What kind of training opportunities can small and medium-sized businesses offer their employees?

It depends on how training is organized in each individual country. Further education can also be a field of interest for universities and private companies. This also applies to companies and large corporations, the training of their employees can only be of productive advantage. I, as a former university teacher, would recommend continuing education courses at universities in cooperation with the companies. Of course, as already mentioned, the state has to take care of it, but not alone. This is the task of state, companies and educational institutions to pull together.

Hans Gäng
14.11.2019
von Hans Gäng