ZwickRoell GmbH & Co. KG

Award winner 2017 Category A
Business for Development 


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ZwickRoell is a medium-sized family-owned enterprise that is a world leader in the supply of machines and systems for testing materials and components. More than 20 industrial sectors use the company’s testing systems for research and development and for quality control. The ZwickRoell Group employs over 1,300 people and has production sites in Germany, other European countries and China. The company has a long history, founded more than 160 years ago. Sustainability is a fundamental principle guiding its thinking and actions.

The project

At the end of 2015, ZwickRoell GmbH & Co. KG together with the non-governmental organisation Don Bosco Mondo e.V. opened the ZwickRoell Academy in Chennai, India, where every year up to 12 young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are trained to become testing machine operators. A project that was awarded the German Entrepreneurship Award for Development 2017.

The company’s distinctive approach and project results

It took just seven months for a modern testing laboratory to be set up in the middle of one of Chennai’s largest slum areas, in a 280 m² hall equipped with state-of-the-art machines which the young people use for practical training. At the same time a curriculum was developed in collaboration with Don Bosco Mondo, encompassing the theory and practice of operating testing machines as well as English lessons and life skills training. As part of their course the young people learn to believe in their own abilities and creativity but are also taught values such as team spirit and mutual tolerance.

How the prize money is used

Conversion of the hall and the opening of the training academy were financed entirely from ZwickRoell’s own funds, as is the academy’s day-to-day running. The prize money benefits the trainees by being used for the training programme, the academy itself and its training staff.

ZwickRoell Academy, India

ZwickRoell Academy

ZwickRoell Academy: The renovated and fully equipped ‘shed’ on the Don Bosco Campus in Chennai (India)

India has a flourishing economy with a fast-growing industrial labour market but a chronic shortage of training opportunities. Although the right to education is enshrined in law, access is frequently determined by social factors. One third of young people are unemployed. They cannot afford to invest in their own education and therefore have no choice but to accept poorly paid work. As a family-owned company, we believe it is crucial to think and act sustainably. In 2015, together with the NGO Don Bosco Mondo, we set up a training programme in Chennai (India) for testing machine operators. The new ZwickRoell Academy was set up in just seven months in the grounds of the vocational training college operated by the Salesians of Don Bosco in Chennai. This involved renovating an old 280 m2 building and turning it into a fully equipped modern testing laboratory. We worked with the Salesians of Don Bosco to develop a curriculum that provides theoretical and practical training for testing machine operators as well as lessons in English and life skills. Eight state-of-the-art materials testing machines were shipped in from Germany to Chennai to ensure that students receive the comprehensive hands-on training they need to qualify as machine operators. At present there are three trainers based at the academy: Stella, a Don Bosco Sister, who teaches theory, and two others whose role is to teach the practical elements of the course. Our goal is to train young people from the nearby slums to operate the testing machines in just one year. We are particularly keen to support girls and boys from socially disadvantaged families. Many are orphans or have abandoned their school education. As well as funding the building redevelopment work and the opening of the training academy, ZwickRoell covers all its ongoing operating costs. We were delighted to receive the 2017 German Entrepreneurship Award for Development and will use the prize money of EUR 35,000 to help fund the academy’s work. The award has also allowed us to make further continuous improvements to our training programme.

The ZwickRoell Academy flyer

ZwickRoell Academy – First intake of vocational training students (2016/2017) now qualified

The first students to enrol at our ZwickRoell Academy have now completed their courses. In most cases, this is the first time anyone in their family has ever gained a qualification, and many needed financial support from the programme. Take 17-year old Kiran, for example. For the duration of the course, he was able to stay at a hostel run by the Salesians of Don Bosco in Chennai. ZwickRoell AG paid for his training and school fees. We are delighted that our ten trainees have completed their year-long training and are now qualified. We celebrated their achievement in good style at an end-of-course party with over 100 guests on the Don Bosco Campus. The project has also been welcomed by industry. Eight Indian companies expressed a direct interest in our trainees and arranged interviews for them. With the help of Don Bosco Mondo and our Indian subsidiary, all were offered jobs in the sector.

Graduates from the 2016/2017 intake (10 students successfully completed the training course)

ZwickRoell Academy – Second intake of vocational training students (2017/2018) now qualified

All the second intake of students at our ZwickRoell Academy have now completed their courses. The end-of-course party for our eight students was held on 27 September 2018. One of our German employees attended the celebrations during a one-month assignment to the academy as a trainer.
Once again, our students were able to practise their new-found skills on both metal and plastic components using our testing machines. They were also shown how to operate other equipment designed to test hardness, melt flow and drop weight. As well as imparting technical knowledge, we believe it is important to give students opportunities to develop their personal skills and confidence. We are currently looking for suitable jobs for our eight 2017/2018 course graduates. We have a large network of customers in India and are confident that we can again find employment for all our students.

Graduates from the 2017/2018 intake: 8 students successfully completed the training course

ZwickRoell Academy – Training starts for third intake of vocational training students (2018/2019

The ZwickRoell Academy is now in its third year. We have enrolled seven young men and two young women on our machine operator course and have now closed the application and selection process.
As in the first two years, the training will again focus on developing social skills as well as technical knowledge. The course is now well established, and we are extremely pleased to be training up our third intake of students. Next year, together with our partner Don Bosco Mondo, we plan to analyse and evaluate the academy’s strengths and weaknesses. The findings will help us to ensure that the project remains successful. Right from the start, we have been able to count on the expertise of Don Bosco Mondo, which has amassed a great deal of vocational training experience in developing countries and emerging economies.
In addition, our three trainers at the academy receive technical support from other ZwickRoell specialists acting as ‘corporate volunteers’. Over recent years, several of these in-house experts have spent time in Chennai helping to familiarise both trainers and students with the equipment. We hope to maintain this arrangement as the project continues.