It’s the big day: 13 October 2008. And the first graduates of the “ep-academy” in Ulm are receiving their certificates. They are now official “epengineers”. It’s not every day a company providing personnel services sets up its own academy for employees and customers. With its new ep-academy, “engineering people” (ep), a technology institute for engineering, testing, project management and IT, now acts as a lighthouse in the hotly contested market for talented engineers.
The ep-academy project was started in 2007. The starting gun was fired by Winfried Keppler, director of ep, after winning over other managers in the company. The aim was to provide academically recognized qualifications in different stages through three degree programs, each building on the previous one. It was no mean goal, requiring detailed knowledge and experience of employee training and the processes involved in academies. To get this right first time, ep decided to work together closely with Steinbeis.
To pave the way in organizational terms and provide support during the degree program, ep called in a Steinbeis Enterprise – TQU Business GmbH. With Steinbeis University Berlin (SHB), they then laid down the curriculum, defining degree content and workloads of the executive programs (participants work while studying for their degree). This was all captured in examination rules, thus ensuring that the ep-academy’s offer fulfilled both the project skills principles and the overarching SHB examination rules. With the academic framework in place, the Steinbeis Transfer Institute for Business Excellence at Steinbeis University Berlin supervised academic aspects and headed up the examination board while another Steinbeis Enterprise – TQU Akademie GmbH – looked after administration.
Working in close partnership and clearing every stage with Steinbeis University Berlin was important to ensure epAcademy graduates gained credit points recognized by the European Credit Point Transfer System.
If students go on to study for a postgraduate degree, qualifications and grades obtained at the ep-academy will be recognized, shortening the length of their new studies. This motivates graduates, as one explains: “Even if I don’t yet know if I’ll ever go on to use it, it’s good to have.”
The epengineer degree is certified by Steinbeis University Berlin. This acts as confirmation from the University, represented by the Institute for Business Excellence, that the examination regulations are being fulfilled. Apart from running seminars relevant to the workplace and asking students to carry out a complex project related to their work, a strong emphasis is placed on developing the personality of the young engineers. And there are fun bits too: the participants also passed a test to use leisure craft on Lake Constance.
The clients also like the program. The HR director of a major international company based in Heidenheim an der Brenz sums up why: “A personnel services provider that makes it possible for young engineers to gain good qualifications? That’s an excellent service – one we’re more likely to call on.”
The successful graduation of the first group of ep-academy students confirms that Winfried Keppler did the right thing. It was also a bittersweet experience to see five of his graduates poached by other companies to work as highly-paid project managers. But as he sees it, “That’s precisely why this is a good investment in long-term business relationships.”