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Fit for the future with the Audi Academy’s roadmap to digitalization

With its broad range of qualifications in the growth field of digitalization, the Audi Academy prepares Four Rings’ employees for the future.

01/20/2021 Copy: Benjamin Seibring Illustration: Boris Schmitz Reading Time: 7 min

Getting to grips with complex automation technology is part of the multifaceted certification programs at Audi.

The coronavirus pandemic and working from home have not only compelled us all to abruptly shift to virtual forms of collaboration, such as Skype and MS Teams meetings, but also confronted everyone in the working world with many questions. How do I conduct large Skype conferences efficiently and how do I plan my work day at home? Over the last few months, employees everywhere, including at the Four Rings, have been asking themselves the same questions. Thanks to the Audi Academy’s tailored qualifications, staff at Audi have help in finding answers and charting their course to the future. It’s all part of a 360-degree approach to digitalization that is applied across all divisions and every link in the value chain.

Digital transformation in high gear

In 2019 alone, Audi employees in Europe invested more than 200,000 hours in getting further training in fields of strategic importance for the future. More than 40,000 hours were dedicated to digital upskilling. Frank Henke, head of the skills development, big data, IT, processes and new business department, explains what this means in concrete terms: “The Audi Academy’s wide range of qualifications revolving around the growth field of digitalization spans the spectrum from software development and big data through automation technology to New Work and digital leadership. It’s up to course participants to decide what they want to focus on.” While the Audi Academy offers courses, including Office 365 or New Work, that cater to a wide audience in all the divisions, the company also needs qualified IT experts in fields such as cloud development or IT and automotive security to drive transformation. This is why the Audi Academy also provides certifications on these topics. After all, digitalization affects everyone in the company. “We are in the process of transforming the automotive industry. Together with electromobility and alternative drives, digitalization is key to the future of our industry. We want to guide and assist each and every one of our employees as they chart their course to tomorrow. Digitalization means not just a change in course content, but also in the way we learn. At the Audi Academy, we embraced blended learning—i.e. the combination of face-to-face teaching and virtual learning opportunities—long before the pandemic,” explains Dagmar Konrad, head of the Audi Academy.

The Audi Academy certification programs make use of blended learning—a combination of in-person teaching and virtual learning.

Software development with practical relevance

Coordinated in partnership with the Institute for Academic Continuing Education (IAW) at the Ingolstadt University of Technology, the in-service program and university module on the basics of software development also relies on blended learning. The eight-month certification program gives participants a grounding in the field of software development. “The aim is not only to introduce students to programming in Python but also to give them some insight into the different software development phases. By the end of the course, every participant should be able to program applications on their own,” says Doris Hertrampf, the Audi Academy manager responsible for the course. She underlines the company’s cooperation with the university: “We work closely with the Ingolstadt University of Technology. For instance, the in-person modules are held on the university campus.” Thanks to the blended learning components during self-study phases, the program minimizes in-person classes so that it’s easier to combine with work.

In the data.camp course, Audi employees acquire advanced IT skills in order to tackle problems specific to future mobility solutions.

Big Data training in remote mode

In addition to cooperating with the Ingolstadt University of Technology, the Audi Academy works with other German and international universities and online learning institutions. The data.camp certification program is a good example. This program allows employees to acquire advanced IT skills in order to tackle problems specific to future mobility solutions. Course materials focus on topics such as smart analytics and artificial intelligence. Developed in Silicon Valley, Udacity is another Web platform that lets users deepen their knowledge in their own time through self-directed learning. Courses run for four to six months. Options for upskilling are rounded out with tutorials as well as live online and in-person teaching at the Audi Academy. Bastian Denk is a learning facilitator for topics relating to big data. He joined the data.camp team about a year ago: “All our efforts are devoted to teaching big data skills, which is why we traveled around investigating the need for new technologies and learning concepts. The result is a qualification program that spans teaching basic skills needed to become a business analyst, through training as a data analyst, to the advanced machine learning engineer course.” Qualifying as a self-driving car engineer presents the highest level of difficulty. In that course, participants test their own code under real conditions. By remotely running their programming on a prototype self-driving car, they evaluate its performance at full speed as the vehicle navigates a test track in California designed especially for the course. Around 550 Audi employees have successfully completed Udacity online courses since 2017.

Acquisition of digital leadership skills

For all Four Rings employees who don’t know the difference between software development and big data, the Audi Academy will be adding a new online learning platform to its portfolio from 2021. Thanks to Masterplan’s high-quality learning content, even beginners can get to grips with the world of bits and bytes. Alongside technical topics such as exponential technologies and cloud architecture, there are also comprehensive learning materials on current topics such as digital leadership and New Work. Masterplan rounds out the Audi Academy’s already existing further education offerings. On the platform, users can learn various foreign languages, pursue their personal development or acquire social and entrepreneurial skills. Topics covered range from self-management while working from home to conducting virtual conferences. The certification programs for specialists and executives also include parts that are conducted digitally. New courses, including on how to lead from a distance or in crisis situations, were developed to impart and strengthen the skills needed in these challenging times. What’s more, many in-person courses have been put online.

Audi spaces are virtual meeting places. Course participants meet with avatars in a 3D room, exchange ideas in digital meetings and brainstorm on interactive whiteboards.

Learning in virtual space

Courses devoted to aspects of New Work are increasingly being staged in the Audi spaces learning and working environment. Designed especially for the Audi Academy, this platform is now available to all Four Rings employees in Germany. The way Audi spaces looks and functions is reminiscent of a computer game. In this digital world, participants can meet with avatars in a 3D space, exchange ideas in virtual meetings and, for instance, brainstorm together on interactive whiteboards. The customizable characters gesture, interact and talk to each other—just like in the real world. In this way, groups of employees receive instruction from “real live” tutors via their own computers at previously scheduled times. But those who prefer to study independently can also take advantage of pre-prepared 3D learning materials in Audi spaces, wherever and whenever they like.

There is an increasing focus on IT expertise in the Four Rings’ vocational training programs, which instill a combination of theoretical principles and hands-on skills.

Training with digital learning guides

It’s not just Audi employees who are already working and learning virtually. The trainees are, too. Junior employees, for example, are equipped with digital learning guides in the form of iPads. Tutors make learning modules available on Moodle, an open source learning platform installed on the iPads. Susanne Resnik, head of apprenticeships in specialized information technology and mechatronics at the Audi Academy, believes this comes with many added benefits: “We marry the opportunities inherent in self-study with the freedoms provided by mobile learning. The aim is to prepare trainees for lifelong learning so that, after some initial guidance, they can independently acquire skills digitally.” Audi also places strong emphasis on Industry 4.0 in the vocational training programs’ course content. There is an increasing focus on IT expertise in the Four Rings’ 17 future-proof vocational training programs, which range from mechatronics technician through electronics technician specializing in automation technology to IT specialist, and instill a combination of theoretical principles and hands-on skills.

For instance, the IT specialist apprenticeship program has been specially adapted to the company’s needs. “We are expanding the job description to encompass an electrician’s skills. On top of the IT training, the additional qualification as an industrial electrical engineering technician provides a grasp of how the factory plants work. We also offer an extra digital networking qualification for mechatronic engineers. This teaches those enrolled in the program to network systems and integrate them into the IT infrastructure,” Susanne Resnik explains. This year, 60 IT specialists started their training at Audi. In 2020, the Four Rings’ first cohort of 12 digitalization management assistants embarked on their apprenticeships. “Starting from 2021, we will also be offering an IT specialization program in data and process analysis. Our focus is clearly trained on careers in IT and providing more traditional professions with IT skills,” says Susanne Resnik.

 

As the first port of call on all things related to training and further education in the company, the Audi Academy encourages employees to engage with aspects of Industry 4.0. To that end, our certification offerings must always be targeted and sustainable. In this way, Audi either supports its employees in performing their current jobs even better or in completing the training necessary to assume specific new roles. In-service training using blended learning formats—i.e. combining face-to-face teaching with digital offerings—makes it possible and easier to access entirely new skill sets. As a result, employees from all divisions can acquire IT expertise and put their new capabilities to work on a daily basis. At the same time, Audi is already preparing its trainees for a digital workplace. All of which means that the Four Rings’ transformation into a digital car company is in full swing.

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Shaping the future of mobility together

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