In order to maintain competitiveness, both schools and businesses need close cooperation to integrate experiences in joint development projects. It is also among the areas which the Erasmus+ programme offers support to, and it is what the four organisations which now share their experiences relied on. Traineeship with Portuguese enterprises, teaching entrepreneurial lifestyle at university, training retailer mentors, innovation management. Four projects to link education with the world of labour.
Experience from Real Life - Close Cooperation Required between Businesses and Education
"In our days, companies need to provide almost tailor-made education and training to their employees to keep their skills up-to-date and competitive. Technology is developing in quantum leaps, and a close cooperation between business and education is now a must", explains the importance of a connection between the world of labour and education Andrea Kövesd, Managing Director of Trebag Intellectual Property and Project Management Ltd, a Nagykovácsi based company in the Buda agglomeration.
"As a university of applied sciences, we consider it very important to learn about actual corporate practices and to integrate them into education, in order to provide practise-oriented courses. The relationship is further enhanced by the research and development of current issues relevant to enterprises, to which partnership projects offer an excellent framework", adds Dr. Sára Csillag, Pro-Rector for Science at Budapest Business School (BGE).
The heads of the business and the educational institution share the same opinion. What they also share is that they both relied on the opportunities offered by the Erasmus+ programme. Both of them coordinated projects connecting education with the world of labour as leaders of an international consortium.
"Practical Knowledge Enters University"
BGE applied with a project called TRUST ME. It is an abbreviation for Training for Unique Skills and Techniques for Mentoring, referring to training mentors to support small and medium enterprises. The idea dates back to a former professional partnership with a French company, Adinvest, providing SME mentoring services on a commercial basis.
"The involvement of a French partner was also useful because they are engaged in mentoring in practice, so they brought their experiences from real life, which we then integrated into the research findings and educational experience from the university sector", explains Sára Csillag. "We found that, instead of conventional classroom courses and e-leaning materials, company heads showed more and more interest in customised training. In certain decision-making situations and business processes, they need actual help and guidance", the Pro-Rector pointed out.
At the beginning of the project, it was important to define the terminology; mentors are somewhere between advisers and a coaches. They do not provide a solution, but guidance to solving a business problem by asking questions and introducing new aspects.
When selecting the members of the consortium, BGE wanted to include as many sectors as possible, as well as to ensure geographical diversity. So the partnership consisted of businesses, a business association, and as many as three universities.
Most of the participants of the pilot training designed came from the Confederation of Hungarian Employers and Industrialists, but some came from the universities involved. One of them was Dr. Anita Antal, Associate Professor at the Zalaegerszeg Faculty of BGE. "Among many other things, the benefit of the training for me was the improvement of personal skills; for example, how to assist customers of various personalities and characters in making the right decisions. The business decision simulating software also proved very useful. When using the software, we formed teams to compete against each other; we learnt from realistic situations what aspects the heads of businesses needed to consider, what consequences a decision could have, what the risks were, what proved to be a winning strategy, how production could be more efficient and how profit could be increased."
How did BGE benefit from the training?
"The cooperation with the business sector provides practical knowledge for the university, which greatly helps us train our students in accordance with the market needs. The partnership projects will later continue in dual education, research and development networks or further development programmes", said Sára Csillag.
A Fresh Approach, New Values
Trebag Ltd. has been involved in EU-funded development projects for 17 years; they have won funding for their projects several times through the Erasmus+ programme and its predecessors. The implementation of their project called INNOME – Training on Corporate Innovation Management System for Competitiveness began in 2015. Here, the main goal was to prepare an educational material which, based on the Innovation Management Standard, promoted the implementation and operation of innovation process control systems for small and medium-sized enterprises.
All this offers the company a number of benefits; among others, it brings a fresh approach and new values into the organisation, helps to identify and manage risks, as well as to make use of the creativity and knowledge within the organisation, it encourages the involvement of employees in innovation activities, enhances team work and cooperation, and last but not least, it turns the innovation created in cooperation with the partners into value, which increases the income and the profit of the company.
The consortium led by Trebag Ltd. also included Magyar Suzuki Corporation Ltd. - which has, accordingly, already introduced the innovation management system -, the Babes-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca, the Romanian association of education EAPTP, the Polish HR consulting and training company Nowoczesna Firma, as well the Slovakian non-profit organisation Astra.
The company seeks to launch the innovation-supporting system designed as a paid service to help companies turn as many ideas as possible into innovative products. There is still a lot to improve in terms of efficiency. Currently, automotive companies spend an annual €68 billion globally on research and development and employ 800,000 engineers; however, 40% of the projects launched will never reach serial production.
"We gained a lot of experience and knowledge while implementing the project; we tried innovation training materials and specialised them on certain fields. We maintain extensive cooperation with a number of institutions all over Europe; our project has received much positive feedback, and many expressed their interest in, and even their intention to adopt, our training material", says Andrea Kövesd, adding that, based on the project outcomes, two new Erasmus+ projects had been launched with their involvement since then; a consortium, headed by the British partner, in the field of social innovation, and another, headed by the Irish, seeking to develop educational material with playful elements for two parts of the innovation management standard family.
An Entrepreneurial Approach Can Be Taught
The University of Szeged (SZTE) has also decided to rely on the synergy between education and business. Develop an entrepreneurial approach among non-business students - that was the goal of the project called Embedding Entrepreneurship Education, closed at the end of September 2018; besides the Hungarian higher education institution, the project involved German, British, Dutch and Austrian members in the consortium.
"The university had already had a history with the Dutch partner. They knew that we taught how to become an entrepreneur and that we ran a Masters course in business development. They made us an offer and we said yes", says Szabolcs Prónay, Director of International Relations at the Faculty of Economic Sciences of SZTE, the coordinator of the project in Szeged, talking about the first steps. The head of the consortium is Univations from Halle, Germany, the knowledge and technology transfer institute of the local university, and, besides the Dutch organisation mentioned above, the consortium also involved an Austrian and a British member.
"In the first round, we assessed what we should teach. To that end, we developed regional associations with the representatives of businesses, university teachers and chambers”, explains Szabolcs Prónay. "That was followed by compiling the educational materials and then the promotional auxiliary materials."
One of the most successful products of the project - launching the course - was not even planned originally; then the entrepreneurs commissioned to act as advisors suggested that it should be implemented, so later it became a module of the educational auxiliary material. All this also demonstrates that we should pay attention to the impulses from the representatives of the business sector. The course was launched at the university in September 2017. The applicants were students of humanities, law, science and information technology, altogether 25 of them. Among other things, the curriculum also included facts and misbelieves about entrepreneurship, financial and administrative duties related to launching an enterprise, as well as business planning and modelling and effective marketing. The participants formed teams and presented their business ideas to mentors. Altogether 40 mentors monitored the progress of the teams, including heads of IT companies, experienced 'start-uppers' and entrepreneurs. The ideas were also very varied, ranging from producing home-made beer and creating coworking office space to developing competition-monitoring pricing software or a dog adoption application, etc. Nothing proves the success of the course better than the fact that at half-term, there was a team whose product raised the interest of a pharmaceutical company.
Gain Professional Experience - Even Abroad
The Erasmus+ programme also has a great significance in bringing the world of work closer to young people and allowing them to challenge themselves in practice, too. The Martin János Secondary Vocational School and Vocational School is only one of hundreds of schools which rely on foreign best practices already in secondary education. They have offered their students foreign traineeship in Portugal for years. "Their language skills improved, and they were able to integrate in the life of a business abroad, which gave them self-confidence. I'm certain that all this will help them manage in Hungary and give them access to the open labour market”, says Directress Györgyné Lénárt. This institution is also attended by SEN students, physically disabled students, visually impaired students, ones hard of hearing, as well as autistic students, to learn a vocation which their skills allow. Among others, we train potters, joiners, upholsterers, dressmakers and tailors, bakers, bike mechanics and IT professionals.
And why the Southwestern country? "Our operator called our attention to Portugal as a European leader in reducing early school dropout rates. Besides, Portuguese economy is strongly built on small and medium-sized enterprises, the sector with the largest demand for our students", said the head of the institution.
"Our students managed excellently in the foreign environment. They got to know their peers from other countries already on their way to work, and at the company they were equal members of the team and didn't feel any discrimination", explains Györgyné Lénárt. They even saw examples which they hadn't in Hungary, such as how an owner in a wheelchair manages a factory.
Last modified: 18-04-2019