Digital learning from the start

Reading time: approx. 6 minutes
Text: Juliane Gringer
Photos: BPW

The professional world is increasingly shaped by digitalisation – that’s why it makes sense to optimally prepare even trainees for precisely this world. At BPW, digital training of the next generation is a matter of course: in its own training centre, the company relies on networked machines and robotics, among other things.

From his desk, Jan Altergott, a future cutting machine operator, can move the machines that BPW Bergische Achsen uses: He and the other trainees use a digital twin to simulate decentrally on the computer how metal is shaped – and can also control the machining process remotely. In this way, they are already practicing during their training with a high degree of digitalisation, which will later be an integral part of their job. “I am being prepared here for what the job really requires in practice,” says the 19-year-old. He is convinced: “At BPW I learn more than in other companies.”

»I am prepared here for what the profession really requires in practice.«

Jan Altergott, trainee cutting machine operator in the 3rd year of training at BPW

BPW’s training centre is digital to the core, including networked machines and robotics: “In addition to the digitalisation of educational content, which we realise with our own platform and hybrid teaching, it is particularly important to us that we prepare the trainees as good as possible for their professional career,” explains Fabian Breit from the BPW Group Academy. He is an instructor for technical training in the area of machining. “The digital twin that we can programme decentrally – that’s real digitalisation for me.” Looking at the learning process, the “digital twin” offers the advantage that the young adults can try it out for themselves: “Instead of just standing next to the machine and not being allowed to touch anything, they can become active here themselves. And we can also live a certain solution culture, which is very important for understanding things deeply. With the digital twin, for example, you can deliberately do something wrong and see what happens – without really damaging anything.
Breit himself trained as a cutting machine operator at BPW from 2008 and specialised in milling technology. “The profession is now very much shaped by digital technology,” he says. “That’s the reality – and therefore it’s only fair if that’s already taught during training.” So it should be a matter of course, but it also involves a lot of effort: Many companies are already under pressure to push ahead with their own digitalisation. Implementing this in the area of training costs a lot of time and money. “The digital preparation of educational content is a complex project,” reports Fabian Breit. “Developing it certainly takes three times as long compared to developing the previous formats. Even if you can then use content like learning videos in the long term: You still have to invest in preparation and follow-up.” At BPW, the training content is structured according to the concept of the complete action, explains Breit: “In addition to the technical content, we also teach how to plan workflows and make decisions about their implementation – in other words, what is required on the job every day.”

»In addition to the technical content, we also teach how to plan worksflows and make decisions about their implementation – in other words, what is required on the job every day.«

Fabian Breit, BPW Group Academy, Technical Instructor in the area of Machining

Breit emphasises how important process-oriented thinking and acting is in the work environment of tomorrow. And that this is not the only reason why digital training should encompass much more than the purely visual transfer of learning content to a screen: “We are talking about digitalisation in the sense of networking.” In addition to intelligent maintenance and IT security, the main topics of digital training at BPW are robotics and additive manufacturing processes, especially 3-D printing. “The machines here in our machining department are networked, and we use simulation programmes to design and machine components,” explains Fabian Breit. “The trainees can even write their own CNC programmes for lathes and milling machines – we are virtually the only training company in the Oberberg region that can offer this, and we are very proud that we were able to implement it.”


BPW offers an optimal infrastructure with workshops equipped to a high standard. For example, trainees – just like employees and students – can learn how to handle robotics in a dedicated robotics training centre: operation, maintenance and programming are taught there under conditions close to production. Two 6-axis robots from Kuka are available exclusively for educational and training purposes. Only a few companies invest in such equipment themselves; most use external training centres. For this extraordinary commitment to promoting young talent, BPW has already received several awards as one of the best training companies in Germany, including “Top Employer for IT Specialists“. The company communicates its attractiveness for IT professions, among other things, together with partners in workshops for high school graduates. BPW is also recruiting young talent at “KAoA – Kein Abschluss ohne Anschluss“an initiative of the North Rhine-Westphalian state government to ease the transition from school to work. It will also be available as a digital format in 2022.

20-year-old Lukas Grabowski joined BPW in his second year of training. He had started his training at another company, but did not feel comfortable there. “I’m really learning something here,” explains the young man, who also wants to become a cutting machine operator. “And it’s fun! ” Jan Altergott also confirms this: “I didn’t like going to school before. Now I wake up in the morning and am happy that I get to go to the company.” BPW also offers its trainees a lot more than the regular educational content. Encouraging young talent has always been a high priority for BPW – fully aware that the profession plays a major role in life and personal development. That is why sustainability education, formats on finance or etiquette courses are also on the training schedule. A new project is “#BPWAZUBITV“, a video format on Instagram that the young adults are allowed to design and implement completely independently. Once a month, they report from their world and explain, for example, why they decided to train at BPW.

»I really learn something here.
And it’s fun!«

Lukas Grabowski, trainee cutting machine operator in the 2nd year of training at BPW

Today’s trainees were usually born in the mid-2000s. They belong to the “digital natives”, who are assumed to deal intuitively with digital media and technologies. This may be true for the use of social media, software and the internet, but in some areas there is a need to catch up, explains Fabian Breit: “Certain things are quite difficult for them, for example written communication by e-mail. You can’t assume that every young person is already a digitilisation professional who learns everything on the fly in his or her later career. A well-founded education should teach all aspects of a profession and individually address the respective level of knowledge of the young person.”

In the pandemic, Breit and his training colleagues faced special challenges. “We relied on a hybrid concept that consisted of about 30 per cent digital learning content and 70 per cent practical,” Breit explains. “You don’t learn to drive in theory either – practical training is very important for us.” Nevertheless, everything was able to continue during the Corona period. “We have trained continuously since the beginning of the pandemic. This is also reflected in the very good exam results of our graduates, which, as usual, were well above average.”

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