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How to mobilize the apprenticeship

Uzwil, November 11, 2015 – Today’s Bühler apprentices spend several months of their vocational training outside Switzerland. This extended assignment abroad is possible thanks to a distance-teaching concept called ClassUnlimited™, which was launched in 2012 by Bühler and the Vocational School and School of Further Education BZWU Wil-Uzwil. After three years, the two partners are now presenting a further development of the world’s largest classroom. “We have set up a new didactic concept which combines the benefits of classic teaching with the possibilities of the digital media,” says Felix Tschirky, Deputy Director BZWU. “From this has emerged a unique form of decentralized learning that helps impart the required international mobility to the apprenticeship”, adds Andreas Bischof, Head of Apprenticeship at Bühler

This year, a total of 15 apprentices from the vocational disciplines polymechanics, system and apparatus engineers, automation specialists, and mechanical designers are working two- to six-month in either China, the United States, South Africa, or the United Kingdom. “In addition to specialist knowledge, they also learn more about the language and the culture of their host countries and gather initial experience of working in an international environment”, says Bischof.

In order to allow them to continue their vocational classroom education in Switzerland, they attend school classes live through high-tech terminals. The master class in Uzwil sits in a learning arena fitted with cutting-edge digital technology. Felix Tschirky, Deputy Director BZWU: “We have adapted the architecture of the classrooms to the needs of this new learning method. It also enables us to connect to two satellite groups at a time and allow the apprentices to interact in different group configurations.” In addition to the architectural and technical refinements, a new teaching concept also strongly suggested itself. “You cannot be virtually present a whole schoolday long. We often faced the challenge of rethinking how we should teach the school’s subject matter,” explains Tschirky.

Acquiring knowledge at home, deepening it at school
Self-study plays a core role in the new concept. For example, students acquire the basic knowledge on their own, directed by a Learning Management System and coached on site by teachers and trained instructors. What they have learned on their own is then deepened in class. This results in a shift away from a mostly teacher-centered to a predominantly self-controlled, individualized learning approach, with a sharper focus on interaction during classes.

The instructors have been purpose-trained for the program, both didactically and with regard to using new media. “Self-controlled and competence-based learning will also be introduced in other classes,” says Marco Frauchiger, Director BZWU. “Modern, efficient, and competence-oriented learning structures have been proactively implemented at the BZWU for some time now. We use ClassUnlimitedTM 2.0 as a research project for the whole school, also using it to show that rapid technological changes present a huge opportunity and many new options for the education industry.”

Specialist training concept designed for the long run
A sound vocational education is a strategic success factor for Bühler. Assignments abroad are part of the long-term specialist training concept of the Group. Christof Oswald, Head of HR at Bühler said: “We are a global organization. We need employees who think and act globally. ClassUnlimitedTM 2.0 enables us to further enhance the attractiveness of our vocational training and to further increase the quality of education.”

Bühler trains some 300 apprentices in Switzerland. About one in three apprenticeship-leavers continues his or her professional career at Bühler. In 2015, the company celebrated the centenary of Bühler vocational training.

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