Training with a Focus on the Big Picture

Sustainable training programs in the transport and logistics sector

What is the best way to equip instructors and apprentices in the transport and logistics sector with the right qualifications, also taking environmental and social influences into account, despite the commercial nature of their work? This is the key issue being examined as part of a business project with the somewhat wordy title “Proactive Training of Vocational Training Personnel through the Dynamically Oriented Development, Testing, and Dispersal of Sustainable Training Exercises in Dual Education (Pro-DEENLA – Haulage and Logistics).” The idea of the project is to provide instructors and students with the right training and make sustainability a more established and permanent feature of dual education programs. The scheme has been given three years’ backing from the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training in Bonn (BIBB). The Sinsheim-based Steinbeis Innovation Center for Logistics and Sustainability is working as a project partner on the program, as is the Business Education Unit at Leuphana Universitay of Lüneburg.

“We’re delighted with this first partnership project. It brings together two parties who are an ideal fit in terms of specialist knowledge and teaching know-how,” explains Jens-Jochen Roth, director of the Steinbeis Center in Sinsheim. Prof. Dr. Andreas Fischer at Leuphana University of Lüneburg feels that the key task of the project will be to engender a constructive approach toward contradictions and lay foundations for sustainability in a commercial setting: “When it’s about establishing the concept of sustainability in training, with a long-term focus on commercial and business aspects, the contradictory nature of possible decision-making has to be seen as a foundation for commercial activity at a local level, at the actual place of work.”

The two project managers are not the only ones who understand why logistics is one of the most important areas of the economy in Germany. It currently ranks third behind the automotive sector and the healthcare industry. Despite this, sustainability is not given much thought in education in the industry, even though the programs that do offer training on sustainable development confirm that there are a number of areas in the industry where companies can think and, as a result, act sustainably. This is ignoring the fact that climate change and the transition to renewables mean it is now essential to place more emphasis on sustainability than is currently the case in the transport and logistics sector. Sustainable planning and action will need to be more of a permanent feature in the future, such that it is practically taken for granted and considered self-evident. It will be particularly important to keep playing up sustainability so that key players not only develop an understanding for the issues, but also start basing plans and activities on the concept. This is why providing the right training will be so important, especially in this area of the economy.

The state-backed project aims to reach out to apprentices working in industry and offer training to the people who actually provide the vocational instruction in business. The concept has been planned to ensure that the program taps into the know-how of all key players in order to bolster sustainable development across the board. The program should also help sensitize future logistics specialists to sustainability issues. By drawing on a variety of training methods, the aim is to contribute as much as possible to the long-term development of employees and do justice to the real needs of business. The team will develop, test, and then implement a “teach-learn” approach revolving around training exercises, not just in the classroom or “in a black box” but also by working with instructors and apprentices in the ttransport and logistics sector. In a nutshell, the instructors will be actively involved in planning the training exercises so that they establish the informal and formal processes it requires to gear vocational training to sustainable development in haulage and logistics services.

The training exercises are being developed by both partners involved in the project, looking first at existing methods, the requirements, and needs of the transport and logistics sector, and the latest scientific insights into training at the workplace. To do this, they are designing an individually adaptable training process that can be updated and matched to the workplace and will focus strongly on developing new skills. The topics covered relate strongly to current developments, are closely related to people’s everyday work, and follow a systematic methodology. All of the training exercises revolve around personal experiences and actual problems. The participants control the process themselves, which is individualized and based on interaction and participation. The aim is to foster and encourage people to understand themselves, including their own aptitudes and personal thoughts. It can be a demanding process but as such it is acceptable, and, if anything, students are even “expected” to find it acceptable. It does allow for individual learning styles and preferences, and it opens students’ eyes to their own strengths and weaknesses when learning. As for the content, the training exercises place an emphasis on open (learning) processes, mutual influences, the dynamics of systems, susceptibility to failure, and the likelihood of making errors, thus encouraging people to be more organized.

At first, ten small and medium-sized transportation and logistics enterprises plus one firm belonging to a large corporation will take part in the project. The companies are headquartered in six different states of Germany and their industry associations will also be involved. Over the course of the project, 24 complex training exercises will be developed and given to the apprentices as well as their trainers and instructors. The exercises fall into the categories of fundamental exercises, connected exercises and extended exercises, each taking a different approach to sustainable learning. Jens-Jochen Roth hopes to be able to transfer the lessons learned to other businesses and professions.

As well as backing Pro-DEENLA, the BIBB will also be supporting other projects that pursue the same goal of systematically integrating workbased skills and sustainability know-how into vocational training. As such, Pro-DEENLA is carrying out pioneering work in the transport and logistics sector.

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