Stefan Gee, of GEE Business English, recently organised the third “Business English Boot Camp” for Bachelors of Science and Bachelors of Chemical Engineering on behalf of Henkel AG & Co. KGaA, Düsseldorf.
Day to day, these dual bachelor students read many English scientific articles, manuals, material datasheets and other technical documents, but depending on the departments they are assigned to, there may be fewer opportunities for them to speak English. Their spoken English gets a little rusty. Therefore, there is a strong focus on spoken communication in the “Boot Camp”.
As the names suggests, the “Boot Camp” was hard work! The days were long and challenging, but there was lots of fun and laughter so the time spent was incredibly valuable. This was an opportunity for participants to communicate in English exclusively about work-related topics and develop the necessary communication skills for their future roles.
Participants were given the chance to contribute topics for discussion in a kick-off meeting several weeks prior to the “Boot Camp”. Here’s what they chose:
- Engineering in gas, coal-power and nuclear power plants
- Renewable electricity generation
- New synthesis reactions for chemicals
- New technology to improve chemical processes
- Finding sustainable alternatives to current oil-based ingredients
- The colourful side of chemical processes: dyes in cosmetics and household cleaning products
- Cosmetics: finding the most skin-friendly ingredients
- Cosmetics: finding the most sustainable ingredients
The responsible departmental heads gave Stefan Gee a list of “must have” and “nice-to-have” skills to ensure participants were acquiring skills which would support their future roles if they are recruited by Henkel after their studies. The skills we covered were: moderating and participating actively in MS TEAMS meetings (including neutral small talk before getting down to business), PPT presentations and e-mail communication. To maximise the impact of the “Boot Camp”, most of the training was done in the context of communication in a virtual international team (which is what participants will probably encounter if they remain at Henkel). This included e-mail communication among team members and internal meetings and then more challenging skills, such as moderating MS Teams meetings with “difficult” participants, poor communicators and presenting project status updates to critical stakeholders.
Learning in a Work Style Scenario
Most of the classic language learning (such as vocab building or working on grammar issues) was done in the context of simulated workplace tasks. This is reflected in Stefan Gee’s workshop instructions, which were similar to a team-lead communicating with his reports. For example, he asked participants to complete relevant research. They were then asked to document their findings, brainstorm, develop and then present a concept, give criticial feedback, moderate a meeting, etc.
The entire workshop was delivered using MS Teams.
There was an initial kick-off to explain the concept and get commitment to the learning targets stipulated by Henkel. This was the participants’s opportunity to suggest their own topics.
The actual Bootcamp ran 8 hours a day for 5 days.
For three months after the workshop, participants used a smartphone app to continue learning content from the workshop. To motivate them there was a competition and the best three performers received awards.