05. July 2017

Boosting Apprenticeships in Adlershof

How the companies of the Science City recruit future apprentices

Ida Berg, a microtechnologist at AEMtec, is in her second year of apprenticeship
Adlershof is awaiting the next apprenticeship term, which is a good time to ask local companies about how they recruit future professionals, which qualifications they require and the quality of access to qualified trainees? Some things have changed, but there is still much to be done. Only a few years ago, entering the job market was a rocky road for many high-school graduates due to the lack of apprenticeships. Companies today are desperately looking to find motivated young people. This experience is also shared by many Adlershof-based companies. Mario Ahlberg, managing owner of Ahlberg Metalltechnik, successfully found five apprentices, who are now training to be tool mechanics, cutting machine operators and mechatronics engineers. But it is not getting easier: “The next cohort leaving school will be much smaller and more young people wish to go to university,” says Ahlberg. “Especially for us companies of the Mittelstand though, Germany’s small and medium-sized companies, apprentices are the highly-skilled workers of the future.” Thomas Kunze, teacher and team leader at AEMtec GmbH, also talks about the demographic changes, which will result in great numbers of people going into retirement in the following year, and his company’s social responsibility. One of the reasons AEMtec has an apprenticeship scheme is “to secure future professionals with very specialised skills,” says Kunze. He rates his own apprentices very highly: “They are our most flexible employees, they know all the processes.” Every year, AEMtec offers three micro technician apprenticeships. Every three years look, they train a warehouse logistics specialist, an industrial manager and a dual student for industrial electrotechnology. Kunze emphasises that his company seeks men and women. Is it hard to find good apprentices? He says yes. “Especially, girls: despite Girl’s Day, the Girl’s Technology Conference, Girl’s Day Academy and other activities, including trade fair showcases, it is not easy to find suitable applicants,” says Kunze. Moreover, the job of a micro technician is not well-known. “In addition to this situation, applicants have increasingly bad grades and a lack of knowledge in STEM fields,” he says regretfully. Ahlberg says: “Finding new apprentices isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible either.” He tries to empower young people, who are doubtful whether to apply: “Especially those that don’t have a classic CV, the Mittelstand provides great opportunities because we recognise and appreciate individuality.” Even in less specialised fields, it can be tricky to find promising applicants. Benjamin Preikscheit of Mediatec GmbH, an event service company providing lighting and stage equipment, says: “The central problem is to find interested people.” But the training instructor Preikscheit refused to join in the older people’s lament for the good old days. He is 26 years old himself and says: “I think most of the 17 to 21-years-olds are harder to motivate.” Preikscheit blames the schools for these shortcomings: “The students are not being prepared for work life properly. Plus, many don’t know what to do with themselves and are overwhelmed by the options on the market and the duties they are confronted with.” The situation Mediatec currently has to deal with is rather underwhelming: “We feel that 90% of our interns and apprenticeship applicants are quite indifferent and disoriented.” A reality that many other companies he knows are also disappointed about, says Preikscheit. He expects his apprentices to be reliable, curious and willing to learn. Thomas Kunze of AEMtec also has concrete requirements: “At least an intermediate-level school-leaving qualification with good marks in maths, physics, chemistry and English. Preferably an interest in technology and fine motor skills.” Kunze cannot complain about a lack of demand: for the new term starting September, he received 30 applications for the micro technician apprenticeship. The aspirants are young people with certificates ranging from the intermediate level up to college dropouts as well as graduates. A university degree is not necessarily an advantage, according to Kunze: “At vocational school, the apprentices with a university degree tend to have a knowledge advantage, so they get bored or start debating things with the teachers the other students can’t grasp.” However, this group is also welcome at AEMtec and other Adlershof-based companies. Preikscheit: “We are open-minded. The academic qualifications are basically secondary. We focus on the individual itself: who has to fit in with the team.” Mediatec gets five to ten applications for every open position, mostly from young men between 16 and 23. By Chris Löwer for Adlershof Journal