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How Do You Develop Future Manufacturing Talent? The BMW Approach

Posted By Paul Tate, October 05, 2011 at 4:22 AM, in Category: Next-Generation Leadership and the Changing Workforce

Encouraging and developing new talent is a vital issue for manufacturing companies around the world.

Shifting demographics, retiring baby boomers, scarcity of the right skills, a shortage of new graduates with practical knowledge, and a lingering impression that manufacturing is an ‘old-world’ industry, all combine to make attracting and retaining top talent a tough task.

So how can companies best deal with the growing skills gap? This is how one global manufacturer, Germany’s BMW, is now addressing the problem – and it is set to become one of the company’s flagship internal projects over the next two years.

"In times of demographic change, recruiting competent staff and retaining them in the company in the long term is a challenging task. Future talents programmes and entry-level and development programmes are the key here to increasing our attractiveness as an employer", explained Harald Krüger, Member of BMW’s Board of Management for Human Resources, in a recent statement.

So the company plans to substantially expand its range of ‘Future Talent’ programs to help develop professional skills and real-world competencies across the company, and most importantly, create a fresh new pool of fast-track management talent for the future.

Over the next year, BMW’s new manufacturing leadership programs will include:

SpeedUp: a 3½-year scholarship program for students aiming to graduate in engineering or as IT specialists. Students study at one of three cooperating universities, are supported financially by BMW, and get work experience in various parts of the BMW group, plus targeted training modules to help add practical professional experience to their theoretical knowledge.

Fastlane: to be launched in 2012, BMW plans to expand its program for master students next year. It will include scholarship funding, an extended training program, opportunities for social responsibility volunteering projects, practical work in different areas of the company, and a practically-based Master's thesis.

ProMotion: introduced earlier this year, the 3-year program gives doctoral students the opportunity to write a thesis based on real-life practice and gather valuable professional experience through multidisciplinary and specialist training events and orientation periods.

Group Graduate Program – launched last year to develop up-and-coming managers, this will be extended from 15 months to 18 months in 2012. It includes work experience, interdisciplinary team projects, two deployments abroad, and individual support from an experienced manager as a personal mentor.

Management Associates: an international trainee program with a country-specific focus. The first group will start this year. It includes five months where all the participants work in BMW’s German headquarters at the same time to help them become familiar with BMW’s work processes and corporate cultures, build up contact networks in specialist areas, and foster an intercultural exchange of knowledge and ideas.

Drive: expanded to cover all new company employees starting in 2012. It includes a web-based platform providing specific information on key areas of professional activity, introductory events on BMW’s corporate values, brands and products, management courses and personality seminars for university graduates, and guided tours of BMW’s Museum and BMW Welt (BMW World) sites.

Do you think this set of leadership programs will help BMW set new standards for the way manufacturing companies attract and develop tomorrow’s manufacturing talent?

What future talent development programs do you have in your company?

Written by Paul Tate

Paul Tate is Research Director and Executive Editor with Frost & Sullivan's Manufacturing Leadership Council. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Council's Board of Governors, the Council's annual Critical Issues Agenda, and the Manufacturing Leadership Research Panel. Follow us on Twitter: @MfgExecutive


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