Unified railway education from China to Europe: do we need it?

A digital meeting place for those who are hiring or wish to be hired along the New Silk Road. That is in short the Platform for the Transport and Logistics Career Center, developed by UTLC ERA, the main operator along the Europe-China corridor. More synchronised personnel training throughout ‘Eurasia’ is one of the strategic goals of the industry, the joint company believes.

“The creation of a new transport system for the movement of goods and passengers from China to Europe means not only a large-scale transformation of the entire trade and economic model of Eurasia but also the formation of the demand for new personnel who can work at any part of the route. In this context, international cooperation is of particular importance”, the company states.

A common virtual space

On Thursday morning, one day before the ten-year anniversary of the very first China-Europe Express train, UTLC ERA and press agency TASS organised a joint webinar, where it presented the platform. On this platform, industry employers, students and graduates from Europe and Asia have the opportunity to carry out exchanges and internships at an international level, the CEO of ULTC ERA Alexey Gromm explained.

A common virtual space and access to a single database of specialists and companies should ensure a high level of professional competition, and joint programmes of universities and employers should train young specialists both in terms of theoretical knowledge and in terms of acquiring practical skills for further work in the field of transcontinental transportation.

Unified educational system

During this webinar, which was titled ‘The future of the Silk Road: a single educational space from China to Europe’, representatives of the academic world met with employers that operate on the transport corridor. One of the main questions posed was whether there is a need for a more unified education system among the nations involved with the New Silk Road.

This is impossible, said Vladimir Goldenberg, international programmes Advisor of the Hochschule Augsburg University of Applied Sciences. The solution is in transnational education programmes. It is also not necessary, said Margarita Sotskaya, deputy head of the Center for Internal Communications and Employer Brand, Russian Railways. There are plenty of educational programmes that focus on such exchanges.

International programmes

Judging by the presentations and responses given by the various panel members, each country that is benefiting from the transport corridor between Europe and Asia is investing in staff that can operate more internationally. “We are aware that global market needs have changed, and we are trying to adjust to those changes. We focus a lot on intercultural knowledge”, said Hirut Grossberger, senior researcher and international coordinator at the Department of Railway Technology & Mobility, St. Poelten University of Applied Sciences.

We find it important to train logistics skills, but also the skills on how to cooperate, with different people with different languages and cultures. We want to create such specialists”, said Zhu Luzhi, general manager of Shenzhen Neptune Logistics.

New type of railway person

According to the panellist, there are also a lot of new professions that have appeared in the railway sector, adjusted to the modern, digital era. For example, Russian Railways has more than 1500 professions, pointed out Sotskaya. “These are not only carried out by old people, to take away a stereotype. The employees at our company are very young. There may be people that never associated themselves with rail, but there could be a job for them in this industry.”
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Yet, despite all the efforts to create a new sort of railway person adjusted to the needs of today’s market, the education systems in different parts of the world are still very different. A person who knows this is Alexey Pilipchak, a student of a double degree programme at the Russian University of Transport (MIIT), and also the Beijing Transport University. China and Russia are very different, I don’t have any overlap in my learning.”

More practical knowledge

One thing that does seem to be universal, is a lack of practical knowledge. Asked what students would need more from their education, respondents from all over the world replied: practical knowledge. They wished for more visits to companies, more insights from people in the field and less of the books. “Yes, we really need this kind of knowledge in our educational systems”, acknowledged Guanzhe Cao, executive assistant to the CEO of Duisburger Hafen AG.

With the Platform for the Transport and Logistics Career Center, UTLC ERA hopes to bring people closer together. It offers the possibility to directly get in touch with an employer that may be situated at the other side of the world. But it is more than just an employment tool, says Gromm. “It is also a platform where relevant events are announced, for example. Content and audience, that is what it’s all about.”

How to join?

The process of working with the portal is as follows: students register for free and create a personal page. Here, they post information about their achievements and merits, fill in the maximum amount of relevant information, upload their photos, diplomas and certificates, etc. After this step, the student can search for employers who are interested in him or her. Employers also have their own pages, to which students can subscribe.

On their pages, employers post company and industry news, share tips on how to get to work with them, and other useful information. When finding a job of interest, the student can respond to it directly on the website of the Career Center, after which it will be considered by a potential employer.

The platform is focussed on vacancies in transport and logistics. Any student and any company can register on it. Access to the platform is provided to both students and employers in the CIS countries, as well as in China and Europe.

The Career Center of UTLC ERA can be found here

Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is editor of RailFreight.com, online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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