Qualification as a software developer, with continued salary payment for Volkswagen employees or a permanent contract after two years for new recruits: this is what Volkswagen is offering to IT specialists and those who want to become one. On April 1 in the Wolfsburg AutoUni, it officially launched the qualification program “Faculty 73,” which was set up from scratch in only nine months.
Why “Faculty 73”?
73 is the 21st prime number. Its mirror, 37, is the 12th prime number. The mirror number of 12 – 21 – is the product of multiplying 7 and 3. If the two numbers are squared, you get more mirror numbers: 21x21=441 and 12x12=144. However you twist and turn it, 73 is a fantastic number. Just as fantastic as the program that Volkswagen is implementing through its in-house AutoUni and the Group Academy.
The market for software developers has been swept clean
The Volkswagen Group is training its software developers itself. The reason for this is that the market has been swept clean – and the demand over the next few years is enormous. By 2020 alone, 750,000 specialists in information and communication technology will be needed, and this trend is set to continue.
According to Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil, “In the next few years, the economy will be needing more software developers than the labor market and training institutions can provide. With its qualification program “Faculty 73,” Volkswagen is making an effective contribution to closing this gap.”
The important thing is a passion for IT
The program “Faculty 73” is directed toward employees, IT talents, people who have broken off their studies and qualified people with basic IT knowledge. A degree is not a prerequisite. Knowledge of English and programming skills are desirable but not a requirement. All that matters is potential and a passion for software and IT.
The first 100 participants already started their qualification on March 1. Around 1,500 candidates had applied. The official inauguration was then held at the Wolfsburg AutoUni on April 1, where guests included Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil, Group Board of Management member for Personnel Gunnar Kilian, and head of the Group Works Council Bernd Osterloh.
Gunnar Kilian reminded attendees that vocational qualification has a long tradition at Volkswagen, and that the Group has set international standards with its dual degree courses. “Now we want to continue to train people actively in order to cover our IT needs in the future.” Bernd Osterloh emphasized the “great responsibility that the Group has, with its over 60,000 employees at the Wolfsburg site.” He would also be happy to see a third or fourth year group for Faculty 73. (The second year group has already been scheduled.) Hubertus Heil underlined the rapid transformation of the workplace: by 2025, 1.3 million jobs will be lost because of technological progress, but in turn, 2.1 million new ones will be created. This means that qualification and further training are crucial. Pointing out that Volkswagen is one of the first large German companies to have recognized the sign of the times, he said: “I am very grateful to Volkswagen that they are taking the reins actively in this. They can be proud of having launched Faculty 73.” With a wink, Heil remarked that he had had to do some serious research into why the program was given this name. Particularly as he didn’t know Sheldon Cooper. But he understood it now, “and Volkswagen has the full support of the political establishment.”
With Faculty 73, the Group is relying not on international IT experts but on undiscovered talents.
The participants will become highly qualified. Over a period of two years, the future employees will acquire all the skill essential for a successful career as a software developer in the automotive industry:
- Programming in Java
- Mathematics for software developers
- The foundations of technical and theoretical IT
- English for software developers
- Project and time management
- Computer networks, databases
- Real time data processing
- Mobile app programming
- Practical qualification projects
The program has a 70 percent practical component. The 100 participants work in six small groups to enable them to learn and try things out individually. Friday is a special day, when the participants visit labs in other cities and from other companies, the IT City in Wolfsburg and other future colleagues directly at their workplace, or have time for group work and collaborative learning.
All the graduates have first-class prospects
Ralph Linde, head of the Volkswagen Group Academy, emphasized that most of the graduates come from the region. “You could say it’s a shame. But you could also say that it’s great that so many people in this region have so much talent.” Nevertheless, for the next generations, they are hoping for more applicants from all over Germany, and for more female applicants: the first year group contains 92 men and only 8 women.
In total, 70 of the participants have completed vocational training, 18 even have a university degree, and there is even a doctor (of chemistry) taking part. Eleven participants do not yet have any qualification. The average age is 27.6 years. The oldest participant is 44. “This also disproves the argument that those over 40 are filtered out,” said Linde. After all, talent is not dependent on age.
All “Faculty 73” graduates have first-class employment prospects. After an intensive qualifying process, Volkswagen will give permanent jobs to the successful new recruits from the first year group at the start of 2021. They will receive a certificate from the AutoUni and will then become part of the permanent workforce. Further year groups are currently being planned.
Along with their new qualification, the participants will obtain a job in one of Volkswagen’s future-oriented job areas. In this way, the company gains software developers with customized qualifications – ones that are “home-made,” so to speak.
Lorenz Müller (31)
“Volkswagen is achieving great things here”
“From 2008 to 2013, I studied Finance and Economics at the TU Braunschweig and successfully completed my bachelor’s degree. Throughout my time there, I enjoyed IT the most. I then worked for an insurance company in Braunschweig. But my goal has always been to learn programming. I also find it very exciting to see where mobility in general is heading. A lot of what happens will definitely depend on software and programming. I received thoroughly positive feedback about my decision to apply for Faculty 73. Everyone thought it was great that Volkswagen is training the next generation of employees itself, particularly as the labor market for programmers has been completely drained. My daily routine hasn’t changed much. I still live in Braunschweig, and commute to Wolfsburg with a carpool. My first impressions here? Faculty 73 is brilliant! We have already had a lot of exciting topics, speakers, seminars and practical applications here. The working atmosphere is very friendly. We all have different backgrounds and different types of prior knowledge, but that’s a good thing, because we all help each other. I really enjoyed the Java boot camp that took place right at the start. We were able to program something straight away, and the Lego robot then carried out the commands. I think it’s really great that Volkswagen is making an investment here and putting financial resources into Faculty 73. I definitely want to give something back: both by becoming a very good programmer and by giving feedback to the lecturers. That, in turn, will help next year’s group, which has already been scheduled.”
Stephanie Ondrusch (35)
“Absolutely the right decision”
“At school and during my studies in mechanical engineering, I loved math and IT. I have missed them all the more in my working life to date, which had predominantly involved hardware. Here at Faculty 73, I can finally work on my former favorite subjects again. In addition, the further qualification as a software developer has given me a great new challenge, which was also the main reason why I applied here.
I am a Volkswagen native. In 2003, I joined the Group on a dual study program, and starting in 2008, I worked for Commercial Vehicles in Development for three years. In 2011, I went to Brazil for 3 1/2 years. There, I worked in Development on the Amarok, and in Procurement, implementing the Up! – from the biggest to the smallest Volkswagen, so to speak. In 2014, I came back to Wolfsburg to Purchased Parts Management and was responsible for the vehicle launches of the Tiguan, Polo and Golf 8.
When I moved to Faculty 73, my parents said it was “absolutely the right decision.” My boyfriend grinned and said he was now dating a nerd. He is very supportive and asks me every day what we have done and learned about.
My aim at Faculty 73 is to expand my hardware expertise with software knowledge. I would like to develop further in order to have more possible job opportunities and be even better prepared for the future.
Studying at Faculty 73 pulls me out of my daily routine. Everyone here really has to be open to new things, regardless of what they have done before. This applies both to the lectures and to the work in small groups. I am surprised at how diverse the 100 participants are: we are people from inside and outside the company, with different levels of professional experience and prior knowledge in IT. I think we can learn a lot from each other by working in teams.
I also did not expect there to be so much management attention toward this project. This shows how important the new focus on digitalization is for Volkswagen.
For me, the highlight of the first month was the Skype interview with the Swiss university lecturer Dr. Thomas Sauter-Servaes from the ZHAW School of Engineering in Winterthur. He talked about future visions, autonomous driving, car sharing, the transformation of business areas in the automotive industry, and the opportunities and risks of progressive digitalization.
I am particularly looking forward to excursions to subject areas which we would not look at otherwise. For example, we will be visiting labs in Munich and Berlin, and the IT City in Wolfsburg. I am very curious to know what our colleagues there are currently working on. And this can help us to find out what interests us, where we want to expand our knowledge and which department we would like to work in when the two years are up.”
Sadik Altuneriten (35)
“For me, Faculty 73 is worth the commute”
“I have been interested in software ever since I can remember. Whenever any of my relatives or friends has a problem with their computer, they always say “Let’s call Sadik.” I usually manage to solve the problem, too. I have also already worked with programming languages and done some programming for websites. It’s an area I really want to develop further in.
In 2003, I completed my high-school diploma at night school and then got a job as a project manager for transport packaging at KistenHaas in Dietzenbach, Hesse. When we moved to Kassel with our three children, I applied for a job at Volkswagen. I was taken on as a logistics specialist again. My foreman then mentioned Faculty 73 to me. That was really a great tip, and I am very grateful to him for passing it on. Because I want to expand my programming skills, develop both personally and professionally and also continue to learn in my spare time. But above all, I’d like to become a software developer. For Volkswagen!
My daily routine has now totally changed. My wife has been very supportive from the beginning. We decided together that she would remain in Kassel with the children and I’d commute back there on the weekends. But that means that I have a lot of time to study during the week and can concentrate on myself and the Faculty. For me, Faculty 73 is worth the commute. Being paid to study – what a luxury. That’s like winning the jackpot!
When the day officially ends at 4:15 p.m., I stay at the AutoUni for another hour and carry on learning. I really want to learn as much as I can in order to graduate from the Faculty with excellent results.”
Steve Bartels (33)
“Of course I’m a nerd!”
“I read in the newspaper that Volkswagen was training software developers. I thought it would be right up my street. Because I play a lot in my spare time and I have already developed some computer games. Am I a nerd? Of course!
I trained as an auto mechanic at the Wolfsburg public transport company (WFG). In 2011, I moved to the production line at Volkswagen, where I assembled drive gear sets for the Golf. I enjoyed it, but I always wanted more. Alongside my shift work, I studied part-time and completed my qualification as a state-certified technician in Industrial Engineering.
Here in the company I would also like to develop software for Volkswagen later on. My parents and friends encouraged me to apply for Faculty 73, saying it was just the thing for me. The first few weeks have been exactly as I had expected: there is lots of group work, we learn from one other, you can talk to everyone, and people help each other. It’s good that we all have very different backgrounds – we all find that inspiring. It’s also nice that the lecturers are always available to talk to after class and don’t just disappear straight away.
We jumped in right from day one: we programmed Lego vehicles and were immediately able to practice the programming language. It was a really great, hands-on start!”