While this might sound strange, it was actually my case. When I started my school career at the age of 7 (in 1987), I never thought that I would be 37 on my last day of school. I had different goals back then. Like many children, I dreamt of a house and car, and a job as a fireman. But, as it is so often the case, life turned out differently. I completed the first four years of primary education and then moved up to secondary school where I gained my lower secondary qualification at 18 years of age. At the time, I thought that was that – finally school is done and now I’m going to be earning ‘big bucks’.
Swapping my school bench for a workbench
I was fortunate enough to gain a place as an apprentice toolmaking mechanic in stamping and forming technology at MANN+HUMMEL in Speyer. I was happy and excited about my future professional career. I enjoyed the three-and-a-half years of continuous training and it was there that I first encountered the terms ‘master craftsman’ (Meister) and ‘technician’ (Techniker). My first thought was who needs that and what is even the point of it? But as time went by, I kept coming back to the idea – should I start further training?
If I remember correctly, it was just before the final examination in 2002 that I made the decision to actually ‘go for it’ with the mechanical engineering technician further training. The idea was to start going back to school within the same year, but that did not happen. As the years went by, I saw many changes in my working life, in colleagues and in myself too.
Following my apprenticeship, I started working in an assembly group in production. I assembled gap filters, and now and then I was also allowed to mechanically machine the associated elements on a lathe. After two-and-a-half years, I had the opportunity to move to a different area. I took this opportunity and became a machine fitter in CP production, which had just been relocated to Speyer from Marklkofen. Despite this development in my career, I still couldn’t get the idea of further training out of my head.
One year later I then became a shift manager for the same area. Another five years down the line, I realised that I wouldn’t be able to progress without further training. So I became even more determined to finally earn my technician qualification. I sent off my application to the school and soon received a letter of acceptance for the same year (2010). However, my happiness at being accepted did not last long as I was now faced with a problem: evening classes at the school over a period of four years were not really compatible with shift work, especially since I would have to ensure a 75% attendance rate in order to be allowed to take the exam.
I spoke to my line manager and told him about my plans and the problems I was facing. He took care of the matter and gave me his support. A short time later, I started working as a manufacturing supervisor. Taking up my new professional duties and beginning the further training programme meant that I was able to apply my knowledge in both practice and theory. At that time, further training as a master craftsman or technician was required for the position of manufacturing supervisor.
After four tough years (not just for me but also for my wife and for my daughter who was born during that time), the day arrived when I finally had my qualification. I was happy but also deflated at the same time. I quickly realised that even this further training programme had ‘only’ got me one step further.
Learning can be a lifelong activity
My wife and a colleague then encouraged me to continue learning. I enrolled at school again and completed my technical management expert qualification during the period from August 2015 to June of this year. While this was also a tough time for me, I made it through with excellent support from my ‘family manager’ (and my four children).
My friends and acquaintances often ask me if I would do it all again and my answer every time is a definite yes! I believe that it gave me the perfect blend of theory and practice because while I was completing my further training to become a technical management expert I was given the chance to take up a new position in project controlling. Again I was able to put my knowledge to use.
I would like to take this opportunity to encourage everyone to undertake further training. There are both professional and personal benefits to this. I am 37 years old now and I say that’s it, I’m done, but you never know … perhaps I will find myself back in school again.