Digital education: Increase knowledge about plastics without holding up operations
Digital education: Increase knowledge about plastics without holding up operations
Interview with Dr.-Ing. Marco Thornagel, founder of Tech2Know
Exclusively for K-MAG
Source: PantherMedia / gstockstudio
One way to address the shortage of personnel in the plastics industry is to hire lateral hires – but that requires a good continuing education program. But especially in production, this is usually not so easy to do without taking the employee away from his or her job – which results in production coming to a standstill.
Dr.-Ing. Marco Thornagel; Source: Tech2Know
This is where Marco Thornagel's advanced training program comes in: Tech2Know can be integrated into the daily routine and provides employees with small educational morsels on the spot. Dr.-Ing. Marco Thornagel explains in an interview how this works and how this offer contributes to the development of the plastics industry.
Mr. Thornagel, for whom are the offerings suitable?
Marco Thornagel: The Tech2Know self-learning courses are mainly aimed at career changers who lack technical plastics knowledge. However, customers actually use our online courses more broadly. One company uses it to support its trainees (process mechanics). Another wanted a refresher on basic knowledge for the group of setters and shift supervisors.
Each course is tailored to a target group. Employees in production, for example, naturally receive different content than career changers in sales or purchasing. Previous technical knowledge is also taken into account, of course. The setters mentioned above have worked on a course that requires previous experience in injection molding.
What does the training program cover?
Thornagel: The Tech2Know training program consists of three pillars: First, there are the digital self-learning courses. These can be used via the Tech2Know learning platform or transferred to a company's own learning management system.
On the other hand, we accompany our customers during the implementation of the learned knowledge into the daily business. This support is ideal for the qualification of groups of four or more employees. Together with the customer, we then design a hybrid learning form consisting of a combination of an online course and moderated workshops. This creates a particularly effective blended learning measure. In addition to technical knowledge, this also trains social skills and motivation.
In addition, we also implement e-learning on behalf of customers, for example to digitize customer training, to relieve service employees or to document internal know-how.
The current Tech2Know courses focus on injection molding and are designed for production employees. Upcoming courses are aimed both at career changers in the commercial sector (sales, purchasing, administration) and in the technical sector (design, development) and teach the fundamentals of materials and processing technology.
How is it possible to integrate the training courses into operations without them coming to a standstill?
Thornagel: This lean integration into day-to-day business is made possible by a consistent didactic concept and technical implementation using state-of-the-art web technologies.
Didactically, the Tech2Know courses are always structured in chapters. The processing time for a chapter is about 20 minutes of active engagement with the contents. This corresponds to the average attention span and against this background, 20 minutes of intensive learning is usually quite sufficient for a working day. We therefore work with learning nuggets.
Exhibitors and products around research and science:
A 20-minute nugget can be integrated into any workday without disrupting daily business. In addition, the Tech2Know learning platform continuously saves the learning progress. If a learning unit has to be interrupted once, it can simply be continued later at the same point.
The learners thus schedule the processing of the content individually – naturally in coordination with the managers. This creates enormous flexibility in terms of time and self-determined work, which is perceived as a real benefit by the learners and the company. Shift work or reduced working hours are no obstacle to further training.
What are the technical requirements for participation?
Thornagel: The Tech2Know learning platform uses state-of-the-art web technologies. It therefore doesn't matter to participants which end device they use to work through the learning units. The courses work just as well on a PC as they do on a smartphone or tablet. They can start with the PC, interrupt the work, and continue later at the same point with the smartphone. All that is needed is an up-to-date browser and a stable Internet connection. The quality of the learning videos also adapts to the available Internet bandwidth. When used in open-plan offices, however, we recommend using headphones so as not to disturb employees.
How do employees complete the courses and how is this completion recognized by other companies?
Thornagel: Within each chapter of a course, participants must repeatedly complete small learning success checks. This gives them continuous feedback on how well they have understood the content and whether they should repeat something. At the end of the course, there is first a summary of all the content and then a final quiz. Now a certain number of points must be achieved in order to pass the course and receive the course certificate.
We are in discussion with various companies and associations in order to achieve broad acceptance of our certificates.
What feedback do you get from the participants?
Thornagel: Our participants are enthusiastic about the self-determined way of working and the media quality of the content. This very positive feedback extends across all age groups, from 17-year-old trainees to setters in their mid-50s. It's simply a completely different form of learning. If you get involved, you are often surprised by the quickly noticeable effects.
Just recently, an executive assistant wrote me an e-mail thanking me and saying she was pleased that she now finally understood what holding pressure is in injection molding. She could not imagine anything about it until now.
Dr.-Ing. Marco Thornagel during the recording of a training video. Source: Tech2Know
How can the offer contribute to the further development of the plastics industry?
Thornagel: Modern forms of learning increase learning effectiveness and efficiency at the same time. In other words, learning more effectively, saving money in the process, and scheduling learning times completely flexibly. These are attractive benefits that directly address the industry's growing need for further training.
The plastics industry has always relied on lateral entrants. The shortage of skilled workers is intensifying this trend even further. As a result, the need for further training is increasing immensely. At the same time, we are in the midst of serious technological changes: Digitalization, circular economy, e-mobility et cetera. These challenges are driving the need for further training even higher.
Continuing education makes an active contribution to corporate goals and is an entrepreneurial success factor. Conventional forms of continuing education are too expensive and too inflexible to meet this demand. Just think of the travel costs and the associated CO2 emissions. Modern forms of learning offer enormous potential to meet this need effectively and efficiently. The necessary methods and systems have long been known and proven many times over. For the plastics industry, however, they are new. Unfortunately, this still creates fear of contact.
Next year, the K trade show will be 70 years old. Since then, the plastics industry has evolved significantly. What do you think will happen in the K industry over the next 70 years?
Thornagel: What is clear is that the industry will look completely different than it does today. How it develops depends, in my view, on how it manages to contribute solutions to the pressing challenges of the climate crisis and the finite nature of resources.
I am convinced that the industry will have to reinvent itself. We have to learn to explain the value of plastics better and more honestly. We have to learn to actually think in cycles and implement them in a way that works. This is a challenge with many dimensions. And we must learn to consider the regenerative capacity of all resources used. This also includes the employees in the industry.
I therefore hope that in 70 years' time we will see "green" business models as completely self-evident.
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