WorldSkills expert Adrian Sommer: you can fully understand who you want to be only through apprenticeship

Kazan State Power Engineering University hosted IEK GROUP Corporate Competition (official event of the WorldSkills Hi-Tech) within Open International Training Session SkillCamp-2019. Employees of industrial enterprises from different countries competed in designing and installing electrical systems by WorldSkills standards. Largest Russian companies, the national teams of Switzerland, Brazil, Great Britain and Kazakhstan, as well as international experts from Iran and United Arab Emirates took part in this professional competition. Before the competition began our reporter talked to Adrian Sommer, WorldSkills and EuroSkills Electrical Installations expert from Switzerland. In an interview with ‘Gorod A’ he spoke about the differences in holding competitions in different countries, significant features of vocational training for Swiss industry, and also told us about current work to improve the efficiency of education.

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Did you find some differences between how the competition goes in Switzerland and Russia?

When I organize my national competition, I’m interested what I will have no discussion before the competition. Make sure that everything is clear. And all the small problems with materials are solved before the competition. For me, it’s really important that competitors must be less stress during the competition. While they are here, everything is ready, there is no discussion about some small things. That’s our culture to have a perfect preparation for the competition.

And I know what these competitions set here in Russia in 2013. It was the first time. And now it’s very cultured, it’s getting better and better. But we can improve a lot of things. That’s why we are here in Russia improving the competitions in our countries.

You work here as an expert, but as I can see you’ve got a competitor. So, are you a mentor?

Yes, I’m a mentor for Boije Widrig.

How often do you take part in competitions in different countries as a foreigner?

It’s a good experience to have contact with other cultures, it’s a good experience for all of them. We fought with the competitors from all over the world, it’s really interesting.

There is a such interesting education system in your country. How does it help with unemployment problem and finding fulfilling job?

It’s really hard to find right answer for that. I’m absolutely proud of it. I’m sure we have the right system for our culture. Our system is the plot of more than a hundred years. And for us it’s really important what we have the right person, the right youth who are motivated for the job. That’s the reason I’ve been through a lot of different ways. The main wave (it’s about 80 percent) goes study through apprenticeship. But after the apprenticeship, the road isn’t closed, you have the opportunity to study at university after passing the entrance examination, if you are clever enough. In Switzerland you can go to university only if you are really, really clever. So, there should be no more than 20 percent of people with higher education. That’s a little bit different with what we want in the next 50 years. Therefore, you should wisely choose your trade profession before going forward. You go through an apprenticeship, and after that your ways are open to make a bachelor. But at each step you have to show that you are smarter than the other, then you can get to the next step in the education. Everything is open in all directions.

This is how we succeeded with our system. The main target is to find the right way for each young person, to make them motivated for the job and education, to help them find what they want. But it’s important that we stay absolutely close to the economy. We have to educate them what they want. What’s the efficiency of education if you go study, for example, history at university? Does the economy need lots of doctors in history? No. And after four or six years of study you just go driving taxi. Is this education efficient? And it’s financed by the government. It’s absolutely stupid! That’s our opinion. And we’re trying to find the right way so as to make education more efficient and worthy. We have to educate what the economy needs. And that’s the reason why each association of each industry sector is responsible for the education. And that’s also the reason why we don’t have too much electricians. Actually, we’re short on electricians, but we’re promoting this profession.

For example, there’s a great need for painters and information technology specialists now. It’s really, really recommended at the moment. And we need a lot of people in this sector, but they have to be clever to go through this apprenticeship. It also takes four years and we need better students to learn this profession. It’s like a market or the war for the talent from each country. It’s our culture to have it all. Is it cool to be electrician or is it cooler to be a painter? Or should I work at office? You can understand this only in training through apprenticeship. That’s our culture and we are happy with it.

We have to work constantly with all new aspects in this profession. Everything is being revised again and again. That’s our success.

And the final question. You mentioned that your education system keeps running not only by government education providers, but also by private organizations. How does it work?

In the words “we have the dual education system”, in fact, we mean trial education system. During an apprenticeship you go one day (it could be one or two days) to a public school. This school is governmental, but the education plan for the school is from association, because they know that they need to educate. And on the other three or four days you have practical on-the-job training. That’s the private sector. And additionally you have an internship for around three weeks every year. That’s something between school and working, it’s when theoretical part directly meets practice. And these pools are financed from the association and also from particular companies. The owners of these associations are also private companies. As you can see, we have one part governmental and two parts private. So, the responsibility for the education efficiency divided between public schools, private companies and vocational training centers.

Interviewed by Timur Galiev
Photo: Igor Galiev