When Matthias Fendt and Matthias Neumann found out about the digital class pilot project at the vocational school in Kempten in spring 2018, it was clear to them immediately that they wanted to be involved. “As individuals we have an affinity for new technologies and wanted to actively help create this,” explains Head of Training, Matthias Fendt. Management also quickly gave the green light for the project which meant that the first cohort of industrial mechanics apprentices started working with entirely digital learning content in September 2018.

Hand-written and digital at the same time:  drawing with the “active pen”
Hand-written and digital at the same time: drawing with the “active pen”

Convertibles with active pen: “from hand to head”

The learning content is on so-called convertibles. These are special notebooks which you can flip round by 360 degrees and use as a tablet. All teaching materials and training modules are now contained on the digital devices. Content can be entered both by keyboard and by using an “active pen” which you can use to write directly on the display. For the trainers this is particularly important: “This means an apprentice can also produce sketches and drawings directly on the device. You remember things differently when you‘re writing by hand. Learned content flows more effectively from hand to head – that‘s important for us,” says Industrial Mechanics Trainer Matthias Neumann.

Independent learning

The trainer team also places great emphasis on independent learning. This has been the basis of the modular training concept at Liebherr for many years: each apprentice receives an individual training plan. The subjects are delivered in individual modules in learning units with the trainer and then worked on independently by the apprentice. However, there is no lack of one-to-one support. “Our office door is always open. We are there as learning coaches and people to contact for the apprentices, they know that and are happy to use us,” explains Fendt.

Traditional, innovative, individual

Many of the training modules and much of the learning content was already available in analog form and just had to be transferred into a digital format. The digital learning content proved to be a real advantage during the coronavirus pandemic: it meant that Liebherr was able to react flexibly and quickly to the situation and keep teaching going virtually. However, they also continue to place great emphasis on the manual skilled trades element. In the training center, for example, the apprentices produced holders for the convertibles themselves using the 3D printer. “We wanted to digitalize where it was appropriate, and not in a haphazard way. We are taking the best of what tradition has to offer, combining it with the new and, in the process, placing great emphasis on engaging with the individual,” says Fendt, explaining how the trainer team understands its own role.

By apprentices for apprentices

The apprentices are also highly motivated and help to create the learning content. They work with the trainer team and, under their guidance, produce digital learning content for other apprentices in the form of explanatory videos or new training modules. “This gives both parties a completely different way of accessing learning content. We are always happy to take on suggestions from apprentices because it keeps us up to date,” explains Neumann. And the apprentices themselves? They are enthusiastic about the digital way of working and would do it this way every time. “It is a huge advantage for us that all content is available digitally. It means we can access it at all times and from anywhere. For us, working and learning using really cool modern technology is also great fun,” explains Tamara Borgmann, a second-year electronics apprentice at Liebherr.

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