Experts: Developing Specialists’ Soft Skills Is Essential for the Future of the Silk Road
Developing soft skills of transport universities’ students is essential to develop a new transport system on the Silk Road. This was the opinion of the participants of the teleconference “The Future of the Silk Road: Common Educational Space from China to Europe”.
Development of the new Silk Road involves big investments and integration of processes at the infrastructural, technological, cultural and HR levels. At the Conference, representatives of large international logistics companies, universities and students shared their opinions and expertise to define how to improve the efficiency of training of the specialists to work in the international transport and logistics industry.
“Keeping an international dialogue, building friendly relations, mutual care of our future are natural processes. Sharing experience and joint development helps all of us develop our countries and make them even more successful. Actually, it is impossible without a dialogue in the international logistics industry. A lot has already been done, but even more issues have to be solved to realize the potential of the railway industry and create a single transport space from China to Europe,” comments Alexey Grom, CEO, JSC UTLC ERA.
Universities include new areas of study in their curricula to train sought-after specialists in the transport and logistics industry. “Our university has been developing innovative educational programs focused on improvement of soft skills for more than 2 years. The university employs new approaches to teaching these competencies, using elements of gamification and solving cases in teamwork. Moreover, starting from the first year, our students are involved in project activities, where they practice in solving real transport and management cases, together with leading transport companies,” comments Pavel Yegorov, Head of RUT Center (MIIT).
Tamila Mikulich, HR Director, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy also thinks that communication skills are essential. She also notes that it is important to be able to act and find solutions in uncertain situations. “The market of Kazakhstan has a sufficient number of experienced experts with extensive experience, knowledge and skills in technical engineering education. As for HR, we believe that we need to improve soft skills of these employees. And the most important thing is to develop a vision of railways as a profit-making organization, realize that it should pay back, be profitable, efficient, and high-performing,” she says.
“Apart from engineering skills, one has to know languages, have good communication skills, build strong communications between industry professionals, and have some general knowledge in culture,” -
Hirut Grossberger, International Coordinator, St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences (Austria), spoke about development of international communication skills within educational programs: “Our university has international laboratories that involve students from different countries; we offer courses such as intercultural presentation, sharing best practices, marketing and customer focus. We also regularly run “international weeks” with trainers from different countries invited. All this gives students an opportunity to gain international experience in the railway sector”.
Vladimir Goldenberg, International Coordinator, Augsburg University of Applied Sciences (Germany), shares Hirut’s position. He believes a future specialist in the transport industry should be able to combine knowledge in applied sciences and social competence.
Margarita Sotskaya representing Russian Railways, in turn, added that they need to focus on exchange programs rather than unification of the educational process itself, to ensure development of the transport system.
“We’ve launched a large educational program that includes hackathons and internships. We’ve been encouraging young people from Russian universities to join the project, and now we are tasked to involve students from international universities in this work”, says Sotskaya. Margarita also noted that cross-functionality is an important skill for young professionals. More and more employments with new competencies appear: drone operators, smart railroad builders, intelligent control system architects. “We pay attention to young professionals, who are good in different fields of knowledge, especially in regards to new competencies that were not previously associated with railways”.
Students also shared their views on employment in the transport and logistics industry. Among the criteria for choosing a “dream job”, they noted growth prospects, level of salary, external and internal policies, social responsibility, and environmental friendliness.
During the teleconference, a new project of the United Transport and Logistics Company - Eurasian Rail Alliance (UTLC ERA) was presented to the audience. It is a digital platform for a transport and logistics career center to become a platform for professional communication in the industry at the international level and facilitate exchanges and internships for employers, students and graduates from Europe, Asia and the CIS.
“A common virtual space and access to a unified database of specialists and companies is expected to ensure a high level of professional competition, and joint programs of universities and employers are set to train young specialists both in theory and practical skills for their further work in transcontinental transportation,” comments Alexey Grom.
This is how the portal works: students log in for free and create their personal page. They post information about their achievements and merits there, fill in as much relevant information as possible, upload their photos, diplomas and certificates. After this, a student can search for employers that he/she is interested in, who also have their own pages, follow them to stay tuned.
Students and employers from Europe, CIS countries and China can log in on the platform. According to Pavel Yegorov, Deputy International Relations Director, Research Educational and Creative Center/Head of the Center, RUT (MIIT), unlike other platforms, here an HR manager can see the student’s CV, and see his/her activity and ratings.
“A manager can see a person’s accomplishments, how he/she builds communication with the world, and much more, and gets a full picture of a potential employee,” he said.
The New Silk Road
The New Silk Road is the concept of a new pan-Eurasian transport system, promoted by China in cooperation with Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and other countries, to move goods and passengers overland from China to Europe.
The road’s main advantage is fast transportation. Trains on this world’s longest freight rail route from China to Germany cover the distance in 13 days, twice as fast as the sea route through the Suez Canal. Currently, there are over 12,000 China-Europe freight trains, with an average annual growth rate being 108%. From 2013 to 2019, the turnover between China and its partners in the One Belt, One Road project grew from USD 1.04 trillion to USD 1.34 trillion.
The One Belt, One Road initiative involves establishment of economic and cultural relations. Today about 65% of all foreign students in China come from the countries participating in the initiative.
Joint Stock Company United Transport and Logistics Company – Eurasian Rail Alliance (JSC UTLC ERA) is a joint project of Belarusian, Russian and Kazakhstani railways to arrange an end-to-end high-tech service of freight transportation in the China-Europe-China connection as part of regular container trains. JSC UTLC ERA views staff training based on common approaches throughout Eurasia as one of the strategic development goals of the industry.