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Cultivating young talent

Dual learning is an opportunity for students to acquire professional experience in a real work environment during their studies. As part of our contribution to the well-being of the communities in which we operate Umicore is focusing, in this case, on education.  

Technology and its industries have been evolving at a fast pace resulting in new challenges. Many jobs, especially for technical profiles, require a higher level of practice and expertise. Finding people with experience in such specialized jobs is not always easy. At the same time, it is not always easy for students to break into the professional world. They leave school with the knowledge and theory of their profession, but little or no practical experience. Dual Learning offers them the opportunity to gain the field experience that had so far been missing from their school program. For Umicore the program is both an opportunity to develop a pool of talent and to lend a helping hand to students starting their professional careers. 

Dual learning exists in different forms within Umicore, depending on the region and local legislation. In practice, students work a few hours or days per week alongside experts in the field, combining the in-service training with their studies.  

At the Hoboken plant in Belgium, the dual learning program was launched 2 years ago in close collaboration with several different schools. They developed a learning plan and teaching package which give the students the opportunity to gain the experience they need in the field mentored by Umicore employees.  

This initiative is also present in sites outside Belgium like Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein. An apprenticeship can last for 3 years and be combined with different departments within Umicore, according to the student’s learning plan. In Hanau, for example, there are around 10 new apprentices every year. 

Johann Lindenmayer (23) is studying his bachelor's in science with a specialization in chemical engineering, during the summer of 2017 he joined Umicore as a Dual Learning student for Automotive Catalysts. 

“I have been able to work with different departments within R&D, like the analytical lab, where I have found Umicore specialists to guide me in my work. At the beginning, I had a mentor explain me their way of working and I quickly learned my way around. Nowadays I can work independently and add my knowledge to improve application methods”. 

Johann works now full-time at Umicore and combines it with his studies at night.

“It is the perfect situation! You apply what you learn at school directly in your day-to-day work. Above that you are able to get to know other experts and learn from them. Knowing the people is as important as knowing the books”.  

Networking is also a big win according to Ronja (23) who is studying to become a certified technician in Chemistry.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work not only with the R&D department but also with Precious Metals Chemistry. Through this experience I have been able to meet experts in different fields that share their knowledge with each other, which means I learn too.”

She believes that this program, although challenging, has taught her how to organize herself and find balance.

“Because I study chemistry, I knew the basics, but besides the theory you also need other skills like knowing certain computer programs that aren’t taught at school but are a big part of the job”.  

Sandra Kessler (21) agrees that there are different techniques that are part of the job, for which you aren’t always trained for at school.

“The dual learning program encourages students to work on other skills besides the theory, like for example presentation techniques. Often at the office you are required to present topics and not everyone has learned the right way of doing it”.

She studies Business Administration and has been working as sales assistant to one of Umicore’s sales and marketing teams. Dual learning has allowed her not only to encounter other experts in the field but also taught her how to communicate with clients. 

“I think it is a big advantage for us to get to know how the processes work and how to handle real life clients. It helps you develop your professional skills, but it also helps you learn easily what you are seeing in the theory. It takes away a lot of the pressure for when you enter the job market, as you’ll know what to do”