FOREMEN AND APPRENTICES
EXPERTS AT THE BLACKBOARD
Training the next generation is a pillar of the company’s long-term development. For more than 90 years, the Secondary Engineering Vocational School in Mladá Boleslav has been preparing over 23,000 graduates for future work.
In the era of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, crafts were grouped into guilds that determined their own conditions and requirements imposed on their members. The foremen in the individual facilities at the L&K car plant were in charge of the professional training and education of the young generation. This also applied during the First Republic. As a result, the name of the foreman, who tutored the apprentice for three years and was responsible for him or her, appeared on the apprenticeship certificate. The theoretical part of vocational education was provided by the local industrial school, founded in 1867 as one of the first vocational schools on the Czech territory. At present, the Mladá Boleslav “industrial school” is housed in the first-rate building by architect Josef Kroha, which was used by the so-called housekeeper’s school between 1927 and 1952.
The company’s vocational school, which has been part of the ŠKODA Academy since 2013, has a tradition that dates back to 1927, when the first 58 pupils started studying in three classes.
Vocational school pupil during practical training (1945)
Apprentices during extracurricular activities at the boarding school (around 1950)
With love and full understanding
The ŠKODA Museum Archive retains the “certificates” issued to employees who left their jobs. A document dated as far back as 31 March 1931 evaluates the 60-year-old Josef Lazák, a native of the Kotelsko region: “He worked at our company as a workshop manager in mechanical workshops in the Drills, Small Revolvers and Automatic Machines department. Recently, Mr. Lazák was tasked with supervising the education of all our apprentices, a task he has undertaken with extraordinary love and full understanding. He carried out all the tasks entrusted to him to our full satisfaction, so we can heartily recommend him.”
Foremen take the lead
During the socialist era, pupils were divided into work groups, each of which was led by the same vocational training foremen throughout their attendance. Foremen with the appropriate qualifications were mostly recruited from the carmaker’s parent plant on the basis of a recommendation by the HR department. Their level of knowledge was increased by specialist training, organised by the Ministry of Labour and later by the Ministry of Education. They acquired their teaching skills by completing the so-called pedagogical minimum training.
Vocational school pupils work on the Azubi Car apprentice model (2020)
Pupils learned theory in specialised classrooms equipped with visual aids and getting practice in workshops. Under the foremen’s supervision, they were routinely producing tools for production plants and service stations, as well as products for external customers (e.g. 30 lawnmowers made in 1967). Specialist training of senior students also took place directly at the manufacturing sites.
When it became part of the VW Group, the carmaker introduced new model lines and increased the number of manufactured cars, which heightened the need for qualified workers. Hundreds of millions of crowns were invested in modernising the school, and it was also reorganised. Today, more than 100 teachers take care of educating the ŠKODA youth – half of them teach theory courses, while the others do professional training.
SEB – SECONDARY VOCATIONAL SCHOOL
“I’ve been interested in technical innovations since my youth, and I like learning new things. Thanks to this, I can pass on the experience that I’ve acquired. Over close to 50 years, all the production processes and techniques that we use have changed dramatically. We work with our students, who use top tools and apply the latest procedures. Whereas in the past it was mainly a matter of craftsmanship, today, for example, interacting with virtual tools and robots is becoming increasingly important. Although it probably won’t be needed for routine work in the relatively near future, I believe that human craftsmanship, ingenuity and dexterous hands will never replace machines. I’m trying to pass this philosophy on to my students as well. I enjoy working with young people. I feel that I will age more slowly thanks to them.”