DB Systel’s Sprint Starter Program Helps New Grads Build Critical Skills

November 17, 2023 | Activate Learning | 5 min read

With staff shortages, train delays, and worker strikes causing Germany’s struggling train system to gain international attention, a company like DB Systel GmbH has to be technically buttoned up itself, making sure its workforce is skilled to handle any and all technical issues that could potentially help trains run more smoothly.

Headquartered in Frankfurt, Germany, DB Systel GmbH helps rail businesses with mobility and logistics, IT consulting and digital platform challenges. It also provides information and communication technology solutions throughout Germany.

But like many organizations around the world, DB Systel suffers from talent shortages due to a growing skills gap.

Leadership realized that to stay competitive in the market — and remain the go-to mobility, IT, and digital platform for rail businesses — it must invest in the growth and development of current employees. Not to mention, it needed to recruit new talent that possessed the skills the business critically needed.

The challenge was finding the right talent.

Finding a Solution to Tech Recruiting

“We couldn't find those specific [employee] profiles that we needed,” explains DB Systel HR development specialist, Laura Steurer. Specifically, Steurer says they were looking for candidates with DevOps and networking automation skills.

The solution? DB Systel shifted its focus to recent college graduates, devising a program to recruit and train motivated new employees with the competencies they needed.

DB Systel leadership and HR invented what’s now known as the Sprint Starter program, tapping its existing relationship with Skillsoft to help make it happen.

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Employee Onboarding Is Just the Beginning

Before partnering with Skillsoft, Steurer said the company took a much more traditional approach to onboarding and upskilling.

“We didn't use e-learning, videos, or any kind of online learning at all,” Steurer says. “We only had training with actual trainers standing right in front of employees in a classroom environment.”

That all changed in 2017 when DB Systel’s Skillsoft partnership shifted its onboarding approach — and employees’ mindsets — to a more digital format.

With the Skillsoft Percipio platform, the company can give employees “learning in parts,” integrating with overall DB Systel training. Training is focused on an employee’s role and adjusts during that employee’s career progression. These learning journeys can include both necessary job training and relevant employee interests.

Implementing the Sprint Starter Program to Help a Workforce Meet Skill Demands

Armed with the Skillsoft-powered onboarding process that was already favorable with both employees and managers, Steurer and the DB Systel team expanded on Skillsoft Percipio’s offerings to tackle its challenge of recruiting talent with the right skills.

Enter Sprint Starter: A three-month, skills-based intensive program, designed to onboard fresh college graduates into technical roles.

The program aligns with the end of German universities' academic semesters and includes a group of about 50 participants who start in either April or October (the times when new graduates are typically looking for jobs).

During each rotation, new recruits are trained in DB Systel’s most critically needed skills, including DevOps and networking automation skills.

“Those three months are quite packed with training of different kinds,” Steurer explains. In addition to DevOps, relevant training can include skills in cloud, software development, and even a blended learning path for Python beginners.

Using the Skillsoft Percipio platform, learners can absorb content at their own pace and then test their retention with skill benchmarks.

How Percipio Benefits Both Employee and Employer

From the HR team’s perspective, the Sprint Starter program has been universally successful at creating the skilled workforce DB Systel seeks.

The hiring approach has shifted: Instead of searching for the perfect candidates during the recruiting process, DB Systel can recruit bright, motivated candidates and train them in the skills needed to do the job.

And for participants, Steurer says the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The sprint starters appreciate that with Skillsoft Percipio, they can learn on their own, when they have time and at their own speed,” Steurer says. “And they have the Percipio license for at least the rest of the year, so even if they can't do all the training that we provide, they can go back and look at things they’re interested it in.”

For DB Systel, a huge benefit is the reporting Percipio provides, which allows leadership to enhance curriculum based on interest.

“We can generate a report on what our users are searching for, including themes to focus on,” Steurer explains. “For instance, a lot of employees have been looking for AI and ChatGPT in the last month, and we can actually create courses that fit employees’ searched topics.”

A Future of Skill Building

As the Sprint Starter program continues to evolve and adapt, it remains an innovative example of how companies can take a proactive approach to employee recruitment and development. While formal certifications aren’t part of the program, intrinsic personal growth absolutely is.

“The greatest achievement we had is that we gave our employees the opportunity to manage their skills and their upskilling by themselves,” Steurer says. “They actually get the mindset that learning is not something that someone does for you, but something you have to take care of on your own.”

Steurer also credits the Skillsoft team and Percipio technology with making the program not only a reality, but an ongoing success.

“Our employees value this opportunity, especially the e-learning spirit it brought to DB Systel, and the realization that it’s as valuable as physical classroom courses,” Steurer says. “Phillip [our Skillsoft customer success manager] always has good ideas on how to keep users engaged with Percipio, and I couldn’t wish for a better partner.”

DB Systel's Sprint Starter program is a shining example of how organizations can use learning technology to address real hiring challenges. By using the flexibility of modern e-learning platforms to educate willing employees, DB Systel is leading the IT talent race and positioning itself to thrive in the ever-changing world of technology.