Mladá Boleslav, 21 May 2020 – 31 trainees from the ŠKODA vocational school have returned to work on the seventh Student Car. The project had been brought to a temporary halt in mid-March, along with all ŠKODA AUTO production and all teaching at the ŠKODA Academy, to help prevent the further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. After an enforced break lasting around two months, the trainees along with their teachers have now been able to pick up at least part of their work on a spider version of the ŠKODA SCALA through theory lessons and video conferences. During the final phase of building the vehicle, the Student Car team will be subject to particularly comprehensive hygiene and safety procedures. Practical lessons will only resume on 1 June, in line with the Czech Republic’s country-wide COVID-19 measures for schools and educational establishments. It’s as yet unclear when the presentation of the seventh Student Car, originally planned for June, will take place.
Alois Kauer, who took over as Head of the ŠKODA Academy in February 2020, says, “Powering down all activities at the ŠKODA vocational training school – and especially the Student Car project – in a coordinated manner, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was a tremendous challenge for us all. Over the past few weeks, we have worked at staff level to create the necessary conditions enabling our trainees to resume at least part of their work on the 2020 Student Car. Their desire to present a spectacular concept car this year has not been diminished by their involuntary absence, despite the impending final exams adding to the time pressure. Current COVID-19 developments raise the prospect that the trainees will be able to begin the final phase of building the vehicle from June, which makes us very happy.”
Since autumn 2019, 31 students from the ŠKODA vocational school in Mladá Boleslav, among them five women, have been working on their dream car. For the first time, students are basing their design, the seventh in the series since the start of the yearly ŠKODA Student Car project, on the ŠKODA SCALA compact model, which they are transforming into an exciting spider. From coming up with the first drafts to designing the entire vehicle to building the one-off car with their own hands, students have been completing all the work themselves, under the tutelage of their instructors. They have been supported by ŠKODA engineers and experienced staff from the Technical Development, Design, and Production departments.
Halting production at all ŠKODA plants as well as all training at the ŠKODA vocational school due to the COVID-19 pandemic also affected the Student Car project and upended its already tight schedule. Since last week, the trainees have been working on further optimisation of the interior and final tweaks for the planned body modifications, while observing social distancing rules. This involves video conferences with all trainees and project manager Zdeněk Stanke every Tuesday. “The shutdown of production was a seismic event for all ŠKODA staff. For us trainees involved with the Student Car project, it was a nerve-racking time as well, as we didn’t know whether we would be able to resume our work, and if so, when. You only get one chance to participate in a project like this. So we’re very happy and grateful to be able to finally get going again, even if it’s only through theory lessons and video conferences for now. Once we can pick up practical work on the vehicle from June, we’ll try to make up for the lost time as well as we can,” says Štěpán Fabian, the team member responsible for the vehicle’s presentation.
Zdeněk Stanke, the Student Car project manager, explains the special challenges involved in working as part of such a small team: “Maintaining a safe distance from each other at all times, in particular later on during the practical part, will require a special effort. This applies above all to the final assembly of the Student Car, which will be entirely done by hand. We have therefore developed new process flows to minimise contacts, and we’re providing suitable protective equipment for situations where keeping a safe distance cannot be guaranteed at all times. We also ensure that all the tools and materials required for each job are regularly disinfected. Despite this exceptional situation, which is a challenge to us all, I already look forward to the moment when we can present our car to journalists and the public at large.”
Along with all staff at the ŠKODA plants, the students at the ŠKODA vocational school are subject to more than 80 hygiene and safety regulations, which were defined together with the social partner, the KOVO Union. They include basic precautions such as keeping a safe distance to other people, refraining from shaking hands, a regular hand-washing or disinfection routine as well as “safe” coughing and sneezing. Like all employees working in ŠKODA AUTO production, the team members have therefore been equipped with surgical masks covering mouth and nose or respirator masks.