Knowledge is (Hydro) Power
Knowledge is (Hydro) Power
The world of hydropower is becoming more complex, more digital and more international. Voith has developed the Hydro Development Program to secure existing knowledge for the future and to systematically develop young talent.
Hydropower is more than just a high-tech means of generating energy. Hydropower is also the people who design and build it, maintain it and continuously make advancements to it. But while the demand for this sustainable form of electricity production is growing, the industry is simultaneously threatened by an outflow of knowledge due to demographic change. Experienced employees who enter retirement cannot easily be replaced by younger ones. This “brain drain” isn’t a problem exclusive to hydropower, but it demands new solutions from this industry as well.
Voith recognized this development early on. Back in 2003, the company set up the Management Trainee Program (MTP) to systematically foster young hydro talent. The objective was not only to expand their technical knowledge but also for them to become familiar with the unique aspects of the global hydropower markets through their international assignments, to work together with coworkers and customers in the respective regions, and also to acquire intercultural skills. Voith Hydro has continuously developed the program and its content since then. The MTP became what is now the HDP, the Hydro Development Program. It provides participants selected according to performance and diversity criteria as well as leadership potential with career prospects in addition to qualifications, but it is not purely an HR development measure.
Chief Financial Officer Voith Hydro
The industrial engineer has been with the Voith Group since 1999. After holding various management positions in different divisions of the group, he was appointed to the Executive Board of Voith Hydro in 2018. In this role, he is head of Finance and Human Resources, among other duties. As the head of HR, he is simultaneously in charge of the Hydro Development Program.
“The program is focused on customer benefits,” emphasizes Markus Mader, Chief Financial Officer of Voith Hydro. “Each candidate goes through foreign assignments and works in sister companies, which broadens their horizons to the maximum. This makes it much easier to understand the pain points of a consortium partner, the sales unit or even the holding company. And this helps them overcome challenges together even better.”
The program’s structure reflects its high degree of practical and customer relevance. The HDP is divided into three training periods of six months each, at least one of which must be completed in a region other than the participant’s home region. The content and business cases that the participant will work on during the program are defined during a two-month planning phase beforehand. Each participant has a mentor to provide support in professional or technical matters. In the 13 years that the HDP has been conducted to date, participants have worked on the development of generator modernization options, improved collaboration in international project execution, and optimization of the balance of plant and quality documentation. Development meetings are scheduled between training segments to review the participants’ progress. The culmination of their work on the business scenarios is a final presentation of the results. The location and audience underline the importance of the program – participants present their results directly to the Executive Board of Voith Hydro in Heidenheim. This is followed by the two-month final phase of the program. What the HDP participants have acquired in terms of professional qualifications, market knowledge and contacts forms the basis for their further careers at Hydro – and is already extremely well developed.
Project Manager Voith Hydro
The industrial engineer has been with Voith since 2012 and has worked as a bid project manager for Voith Hydro since 2015, having held this role for some time in Montreal, Canada. Outside of work, Jennifer Stütz races in rallies, skis and also spends her free time doing Zumba, hiking and spending time with her dog.
Jennifer Stütz emphasizes how the program expanded her expertise on many levels. When the current project manager joined Voith in 2012 as part of her cooperative degree program in industrial engineering, she first trained in various departments at Voith Hydro. Participation in the Hydro Development Program was then another important step in her professional development, she says. “I was particularly attracted to the opportunity to discover new areas of Voith Hydro, to expand my network, and also to look beyond the horizons of my own field of work for once,” she says, describing her motivation.
Stütz cites the first stop on her HDP journey, Research & Development, as an example. Here she was trained in the hydraulic design of various types of turbines. “Up until then, I had only ever used the results from this department. Today, I understand the process behind them and all the hard work my colleagues do to select an ideal solution for customers that is tailored specifically to each power plant site.”
But the program expanded her expertise even beyond that. In her second HDP stint, Stütz had the chance to work at Voith Hydro Shanghai in China, familiarizing herself with the market situation in Asia and becoming familiar with the cultural differences firsthand. During her third assignment, she led an R&D project team working on electric motors. All of the skills she acquired benefit her today, says the 28-yearold. “The knowledge I gained from the theoretical training sessions helps me deal with challenging situations. The personal connections and especially the technical background knowledge from the trainee program help me in my daily decisions.”
Vice President Project Execution Voith Hydro
The mechanical engineer has worked for Voith for 21 years. In his spare time, he enjoys playing golf, woodworking and spending time on his model railroad.
This is an opinion shared by Stütz’s 45-year-old coworker Harikumar Kathirvel. “The program helps you develop in many different ways,” states the mechanical engineer. During his HDP assignments in Brazil, North America and Germany, he had to prove himself in the sales and quotation department as well as in the modernization of a power plant unit and the production of synchronous generators.
In addition to the technical aspects, he emphasizes the importance of cultural awareness, not least from the perspective of a globally active technology group. Working shoulder to shoulder with people from other cultural backgrounds is becoming increasingly frequent and therefore more important, says the current Vice President Project Execution at Voith Hydro. That’s why the HDP’s structure with trainees working at various international locations is so important – both today and even more so in the future.
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