“Creativity is intelligence having fun,” says a student (quoting Einstein) who last summer participated in a high school work experience scheme in Loccioni. In a five minute video (viewable on YouTube), a group of young people reveals how, in just four weeks, they went from feeling “fear” for their first day of work to a sense of “satisfaction” regarding the “ability to manage ourselves autonomously, take responsibility, overcome challenges we never thought we could deal with, and say ‘I have become a better person’”. All this through ten words that mark the various stages of growth: curiosity, creativity, teamwork, experience…
Words that – in the Marche-based company founded in 1968 by Enrico Loccioni, where the average age is 33 and almost all employees join the company as school-leavers or graduates – are in no way rhetorical. Suffice it to say that Japanese designer Isao Hosoe refers to the group as a “play factory”. Every year, the group sees thousands of students, 300 though high school work experience schemes. Thirty are recruited every year. According to Sonia Cucchi, Public Relations Manager at Loccioni, this “is a way of meeting and promoting people who can bring value to the company. If that value does not remain in our company, it remains with the person and will benefit a supplier or a customer, thus enriching the territory. We have been collaborating with schools since 1968, and we have never donated a computer: for us, being committed to education is not a matter of philanthropy, but of planning the future together. We cannot afford to do things for today’s sake; we have to sow much, and reap slowly”. “In 2017 alone, we recruited 20 technical high school leavers, six of whom had participated in a high school work experience scheme with us,” says Francesco De Stefano, Head of School and University Projects, who joined the group as a result of a doctorate in philosophy. “In Loccioni, we don’t reason in terms of open job positions: we say, this person is worth having, we want him to work with us… on “what” we’ll work out later”.
We have never donated a computer to a school: for us, being committed to education means planning the future together.
Loccioni is a very particular group: a part from having offices in Germany, China and Japan, it is headquartered in the Marche region, in a small town on the Esino River, redeveloped with an investment of approximately 3 million Euro and returned to the territory with “2km of future”. The Group does not develop products but projects, and includes a company strategically tasked with “skimming stones so as to create ripples, without market constraints”. Moreover, it has generated 80 spin-offs in 40 years, and its horizon reaches as far as 2068. It is inspired by the figure of the “factory worker turned farmhand”, in the sense that it adopts a new way of cultivating the soil and sowing the land, so that one field always supports the other: beyond the metaphor, this means that the group works on very different projects and with many start-ups, specialising in anything from household appliances to railroad switches, and from the use robotics in oncology to regenerative agriculture. It thrives on “tradinnovation”; that is, it strives to preserve the values of tradition, while preparing for the future ahead (for example, it has developed the Leaf Lab, the first Class A+ connective industrial building).
Giving students a vision of the future means putting them in touch with those who already have that vision, helping them discover professions they never even dreamed of.
Here, high school work experience schemes are not just aimed at high schools, but also at primary schools and PhD students alike. The project, selected by the Italian Ministry of Education as one of 16 schemes of excellence, is called “Business for all ages”, and offers guidance and innovation-based training that regards work as a fulfilling experience, and encompasses areas such as soft skills, robotics and computer ethics. The aim is to “guide students toward the future and broaden their horizons, revealing – for example – the existence of professions such as the data scientist: being guided means being given more opportunities,” explains Mr De Stefano. “Not everyone will stay on to work with us; indeed, only those who experience a spark of mutual love. But we don’t see that as a failure, because the entire territory will benefit from our training”.
When high school work experience schemes became compulsory in 2015 (under Italian Law 107), they had already been common practice in Loccioni for years. Of the 300 students from the “Loccioni nursery”, followed from primary school through to university, fifty or so fall under Law 107: students enrolled in lyceums, professional institutes specialising in areas such as business studies and hotel management, and technical institutes. They all take part in the scheme together, at the start of summer, “because that’s the only way to create the right atmosphere”. The students deal with communication, laboratory work, market development, or writing software codes, and are followed by thirty or so tutors. “We never say ‘do this’: we give the students a goal and ask them how to achieve it,” clarifies Mr De Stefano.
A further step forward is given by the “virtual class”, established 17 years ago for fourth year students of local technical institutes, and now an established benchmark: every year, a small group of students from different schools (a network of around 25 schools in 20 local municipalities) is selected, and from February to May they participate in ad hoc in-company training one day a month. In June, they then join the company for five weeks as a team – almost a company within the company. They are given a budget and are asked to develop a product, which they then present at a final event, managing the entire project from start to finish: a hydroponic greenhouse, a test bench for hydraulic pumps, a mini hydroelectric power plant, an interactive game on bees… “Giving students a vision of the future means putting them in touch with those who already have that vision: we often visit schools with our former students – credible peers with whom the younger students can identify. We often meet boys and girls who are disheartened and uninterested in school. When they see people who are just a little bit older than them, doing things they never even dreamed of, they are transformed".