Dual studies: focus on sustainability

Sustainability is a word that has become an indispensable part of political and economic discourse. In order to save resources and emissions in the future, many industries have to become greener. This is where courses in sustainability come in. There are numerous dual green courses, i.e. courses that combine theoretical content on the topic of sustainability at a university with practical phases in a company. On the other hand, the range of sustainable dual study programs that conclude with vocational training in addition to a bachelor’s degree is still few and far between. This double qualification usually ensures very good job prospects.

Since 2007 it has been possible to take the dual course “Sustainable Resource Management” at the Birkenfeld Environmental Campus of the Trier University of Applied Sciences. The curriculum includes key topics such as sustainable management, business administration, and economic and environmental law. In addition, students complete a commercial apprenticeship.

Sustainability is a topic that has to be included everywhere, “says Klaus Helling, who heads the course. Every department in a company has interfaces with it: for example in purchasing, for example to procure products from the region or to implement sustainability in the supply chains, in production where environmentally friendly and more efficient processes are important, in product development when it comes to sustainable products, or in controlling, where sustainability reports are written “explains Helling.

The universities are in regular contact with partner companies

The municipal utilities in Bad Kreuznach are one of several companies that have been cooperating with the environmental campus for several years. The municipal utilities employ one student per year, as the dual students on the environmental campus are called. They specialize in a certain topic – their own interests play a role, but also areas that are necessary for operation, says the Stadtwerke’s HR manager, Alexander Kohn. “The combination of theoretical studies in the field of sustainability and commercial training is beneficial for both sides,” he emphasizes. Regular exchange meetings with the university, the cooperating companies and the students would ensure that the conception of the course content is as close as possible to practice.

Sarah Becker studied “Sustainable Resource Management” and did her practical semester at Stadtwerke Bad Kreuznach. “I find the mix of business and sustainability very exciting. You can also integrate it very well into the operational context – then the concept of sustainability is no longer so abstract,” says the 24-year-old. She finished her studies in the summer and has been working as a junior personnel officer in the personnel department of the Kreuznacher Stadtwerke since September. First of all, she would like to gain a few years of professional experience there. “And maybe I’ll add a master after that.”

The subject areas of electrical engineering and mechanical engineering are combined in the “Sustainable Engineering” course at the Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences in Sankt Augustin. The focus here is on topics such as energy efficiency, renewable energies and sustainability. In the dual variant, which has existed since 2017, participants complete vocational training as industrial mechanics at the car manufacturer Ford in Cologne. “It is no longer possible without sustainability,” says course director Dieter Franke. Today there is no longer any area of ​​technology that is excluded from questions about sustainability, energy efficiency and the protection of resources. “No engineer today can just build a beautiful machine without paying attention to sustainability, and that’s right.”

Lea Greis has also already finished her internship. At Ford, she particularly liked the fact that the dual students can work in two different areas: in product development and in manufacturing. “During this time I was able to apply a lot of theoretical content from my studies, for example from a thermodynamics lecture that I had attended before,” says the 22-year-old. After graduating, she would like to work in product development. “But of course we can’t vote 100 percent at Ford, we get the vacancies,” she explains.

Students learn tangible professions such as carpenter or carpenter

Since 2018, the “Wood Technology” course at the University for Sustainable Development (HNEE) Eberswalde can also be studied in combination with vocational training. In addition to general woodworking and processing technologies, the focus is on sustainable construction methods with wood, the use of alternative raw materials such as bamboo and technologies that conserve energy and resources. The students can choose between the professions of carpenter, carpenter or woodworking mechanic. The university is currently examining whether it can also integrate vocational training as a draftsman into the course.

In this dual program, vocational training in the cooperating companies lasts two years. In the meantime, the students acquire the theoretical content themselves with the help of online learning materials and support from lecturers.

Presence at the university is only required for a few appointments, which enables the students to work in partner companies throughout Germany and not necessarily have to change their place of residence in the first two years, but rather to stay in their home town. From the third year onwards, teaching takes place in attendance at the university, and during the lecture-free period the students work – as is usual with this training model – in their partner company. They usually do their internship there and write their bachelor thesis.

With Raphael Schütte, the case is somewhat different. He completed his professional training as a carpenter in the carpentry workshop of the wood technology department at the University of Eberswalde, which employs one apprentice per year of apprenticeship. During this time he also did an internship in a Northern Irish carpentry workshop. Since the practical phases in a certain company do not take place during the lecture-free period, he only received a salary from the university during his vocational training. He still has to look for a company for the upcoming internship, but the 23-year-old is confident that it will work without any problems. He sees it positively that, unlike his fellow students, he currently has no permanent position in a company he already knows: “This way I can decide more freely where I want to work after graduation,” he says.

“I believe that a completed vocational training course combined with a degree is the ideal way to gain a foothold in the wood industry,” says Marko Pfeiffenberger, Managing Director of Skandach Holzindustrie, a manufacturer of roof structures in Magdeburg. His company also cooperates with HNEE Eberswalde, A dual student is currently working there who has completed his training as a carpenter. The trend is towards building with renewable raw materials and using appropriate insulation materials. Pfeiffenberger has observed that younger people in particular are willing to spend more money on sustainable building.

The growing interest in sustainability issues is also reflected in the number of applications for the green dual study programs for the winter semester 2021/22: by the start of the semester, more prospective students have contacted me than we were able to enroll in the past three years, “reports Guido Eichbaum, who coordinates the dual study program in wood technology in Eberswalde.

Even if it is becoming increasingly popular to study “something with sustainability”, universities such as in Birkenfeld, Sankt Augustin and Eberswalde are doing pioneering work with their programs that combine green studies with training. It shouldn’t hurt if the offer of dual study programs in this area grows, because the model implies that the participants deal not only superficially but in depth with the protection of the environment and natural resources.

A selection of training-integrated dual courses of study in the field of sustainability: The University for Sustainable Development (HNEE) Eberswalde offers, in addition to the eight-semester course “wood technology” with “organic farming and marketing”, a further training-integrated course in the field of sustainability. This lasts four years and eight months and concludes with a bachelor’s degree and vocational training as a farmer. Within four years, the University of Trier complete the dual course “Sustainable Resource Management”. “Energy and environmental technology” can be found at the University of Applied Sciences Zittau / Görlitz be studied in four and a half years. The following apprenticeships are available: specialist for recycling and wastewater management, specialist for wastewater technology, industrial mechanic or mechatronics technician. Who “Sustainable Engineering” at the University of Bonn-Rhein-Sieg Graduated from Sankt Augustin and earned the double degree Bachelor of Engineering and skilled worker (IHK). The course combined with an apprenticeship lasts four and a half years.


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