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Klaipėda FEZ companies continue cooperation with Baltijos Gymnasium engineers

29 Feb 2024

NEO GROUP and ORION GLOBAL PET, major PET manufacturers operating in Klaipėda FEZ, have been collaborating with Klaipėda’s Baltijos Gymnasium for the fifth year, inviting students interested in engineering disciplines to participate in year-long practical programs. Over this time, the companies have noticed an increasing interest among youth in technical specialties and a continued motivation among colleagues to share knowledge.

To help students systematically develop engineering competencies, critical thinking and even the basics of entrepreneurship and leadership, Baltijos Gymnasium, along with various city companies, initiated a practical collaboration project back in 2018. During this project, students are divided into thematic groups where they engage with company technologies and processes, visit the companies themselves, and, in some cases at the end of the year, present final projects tackling real business challenges with the guidance of engineers.

According to Jurgita Račkauskienė, the director of Baltijos Gymnasium, practical collaboration with Klaipėda’s advanced manufacturers is valuable because students learn to find solutions in a real environment, as well as “conceptualize” and implement ideas with the help of engineers.

“It’s important for students to understand that they don’t need to memorize formulas but to try to understand the problem and seek solutions. According to their parents, the gymnasium, collaborating with businesses, provides unique opportunities for students to experience how engineering processes work and how decisions are made. Applying theoretical knowledge in practice and understanding its importance is of tremendous value in real life,” says J. Račkauskienė.

She says students in Gymnasium’s engineering classes are increasingly associating their future with engineering or IT studies. For example, last year, 43% of engineering class graduates chose such studies, compared to only 36% in 2022.

“Students are young people who are searching for themselves, learning to design their careers, take on challenges, and deal with failures, so the role of both Gymnasium teachers and representatives of business companies is to provide as many opportunities as possible for students to see and grow. At the moment, as the state exams are approaching, 12th-graders naturally feel anxious as their further studies depend on exam results. One role of business is to help motivate gymnasium students to pursue education and knowledge. Perhaps businesses could invest in promising Gymnasium students — for example, by offering them incentive scholarships,” says the director.

Motivation of companies

Over the past 5 years, several different companies from Klaipėda FEZ have joined the Baltijos Gymnasium engineering class practical project, but the dedication from PET manufacturers NEO GROUP and ORION GLOBAL PET has remained consistent.

Although NEO GROUP specializes in the plastics industry, this year the company offered students a project called “Smart Home” covering three engineering areas. In this project, the students familiarize themselves with the application of electricity, various devices, controllers, computers, or measuring instruments used both in households and manufacturing industry.

Rūta Žilienė, Director of HR and Communications at NEO GROUP, explains that every year the company consults with its engineering team whether they want to participate in the project again, and the answer remains consistently positive.

“The only changes may be in the areas of projects or the activities of our colleagues participating in the initiative. In some years, technologists and scientists work more with students, while in others, engineers do. But all colleagues agree that collaborating with students brings joy in the opportunity to share knowledge and delve into interesting, non-standard questions heard. We are pleased to provide young people with the opportunity to try out the profession and see the real daily life of an engineer, and at the same time, we can understand what the current youth is living and breathing,” comments R. Žilienė.

According to her, it is encouraging to see a growing trend of more girls participating in the project.
“Possibly, the myth that engineering is a male profession is losing relevance. Perhaps we have finally learned not to divide jobs into male and female, and we want to believe that young people are trying out their career paths themselves and choosing the profession in which they feel good,” says the NEO GROUP representative.

Another PET manufacturer operating in Klaipėda FEZ, ORION GLOBAL PET, introduces students to automation engineering, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, environmental engineering, and electrical engineering. The company aims to rotate its participating colleagues in the initiative, meaning that engineers from the same fields participate in the project, just different employees each time.

“This year, there is very strong interest from both our team and the students. The project is called “Tesla coil”. One of our involved engineers is leading the project this year — preparing for monthly meetings, giving homework, discussing how students are preparing, etc. They will have to prepare a final project. The students themselves will present the project at the Gymnasium at the end of the academic year,” says Vaida Grigonienė, the Director of HR and Administration at ORION GLOBAL PET.

According to her, the company sees this as a social initiative aimed at encouraging Klaipėda students to choose engineering studies.

“We would also really like graduates of Baltijos and other Klaipėda gymnasiums to choose engineering studies, specifically at universities in their hometown. Our team is happy to interact with young people and see what kind of generation is growing. If one of the young people we engage with ever joins us as an employee, we would be even more delighted,” says V. Grigonienė.

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