Case studies

Renaissance of coal mining schools

siuda_5.jpgIn 2008 OKD returned to systematically supporting coal mining education programmes. The company offered support and prospects to students applying for U/G electrician or mechanical repairman courses.

Eighteen-year-old Tomáš Siuda is one of the students who decided to take this opportunity. He enrolled in mining mechanic studies at the High School for Technology and Services in Karviná. He started his second year in 2010.


Prospective U/G mechanics and electricians receive a monthly grant of CZK 1,000/EUR 40; they do their practical training at an underground mine; and in the summer, the Company offers them summer internships. Successful graduates obtain a job at OKD that is secured for at least three years. “This was the biggest incentive for me. In our region, finding work is by no means easy, let alone well-paid work. With OKD, I can be certain that after finishing my studies I will work with up-to-date machinery in a leading firm in the industry and receive a good salary. Coal mining will not stop in the Karviná region any time soon,"  said Siuda.

OKD’s support for students taking coal mining studies does not stop at the point they obtain their vocational certificate. Those who decide to continue their studies are entitled to a monthly grant which increases according to the level of education. Siuda observed that most of the students decide even before the completion of their studies to take up employment at OKD. And their envisioned commitment is not only for the three years stated in their initial job contract.


"Most of my classmates claim they will want to stay at OKD for their whole life. They say they will never be able to find a better job than what OKD offers in the whole region. But many of us do not want to stop our education following receipt of the vocational certificate. I want to at least obtain a high school diploma. And, if I do well at school, I would not mind studying to be a mining engineer or something similar. My classmates feel the same way."


Continuing the family tradition

Siuda comes from a traditional mining family. His father and uncles work for OKD so he has something and someone to follow. He decided to take up his studies after attending a school open day. At the event, he learnt all about the conditions regarding the studies that are backed by OKD. “In our family, all the men have always worked in the mines, and they still do. When I enrolled at the school, they all teased me about becoming another miner in the family. But I am looking forward to the work, even though it must be really challenging at times," added Siuda.


“Our co-workers in the mine don't treat us like children, but as grown-up men”

Students go through their practical training at OKD surface sites, gaining experience while working with long-time employees of the Company. Apart from picking up practical skills, they have a chance to experience the atmosphere in a mining team and the special character of the work of the mining industry. The practical training proves more popular than sitting at a school desk: “I am most excited about our practical training. Everyone in our class likes it better than being at school. It is more than just listening to theory, we get to do real work with modern technology and machinery. But the main thing is that our co-workers do not treat us like children, but as grown-up men,” explained Siuda.

Siuda is not afraid of working beneath the ground. Every profession is associated with a certain degree of risk. According to Siuda, jobs at a construction site or in the forest are examples of riskier employment than a job in a mine where strict safety rules apply.


"When my friends found out what I was to study, they told me that working beneath the ground was dangerous. But I think that many things have changed, things are no longer as they used to be. The safety measures are very strict, the observation of them is thoroughly monitored and I believe in these measures," said the student, pointing out programmes designed to improve work safety in the mines. The decreasing number of work-related injuries at the mines and the positive health and safety indicators of 2010 reinforce Siuda’s observations.


At no point do mining students go underground to participate in real mining operations. Their practical training is carried out at surface workplaces with the students’ first real journey below ground not taking place until after the completion of their studies. „We have only been underground once. We went into a practice tunnel at the Paskov Mine. And that was just a few metres deep. They started all the available machines for us. I am looking forward to seeing how this all works in a real operation. My father and my uncles have had a little laugh at my expense saying that five metres beneath the ground does not really mean 'underground'. I will apparently only see what that is like when I descend one kilometre beneath the ground," said Siuda.


“Look to the future”

In the second year of studies, one can look back and consider one’s experiences. Siuda does not hide his excitement and satisfaction.

“I cannot complain about anything. It’s even more interesting than I expected,” he said. And he sends a message to those interested in study programmes supported by OKD. „I recommend these study courses to all those who are interested in modern machinery and who want to enjoy interesting practical training amid a great group of people. The most important thing is to look to the future. One sees certainty in working for such a modern company, with superior equipment, and, what's more, for a good salary.“