Over the past year, my colleague Werner Birx from Marklkofen and I have launched the apprentice project at MANN+HUMMEL. The underlying idea was to replicate the close cooperation between individual locations in Germany right from the apprenticeship stage. For one, this should allow our apprentices to get to know each other and, even more importantly, experience working in a project team. After all, it is no exaggeration to say that almost every aspect of work within the business is now part of a ‘project’.
Our apprentice project has now been running for the best part of a year. The technical apprentices have set themselves the joint objective of developing a piece of equipment for measuring fine dust and air quality and then installing it in a housing, which will be manufactured at their respective locations. In a ‘real-life’ work situation, this kind of development would be organised as a project, on which colleagues across Germany, if not around the world, would collaborate. The apprentice project involves integrating this day-to-day practice into the apprenticeship.
Stage one: the onboarding programme
The first stage, where the apprentices get to know each other, is organised as part of our onboarding programme at MANN+HUMMEL. There are several modules on this throughout the training programme. In a range of coaching and training sessions, the young people learn and experience a lot about team and project work.
To consolidate this knowledge and ensure that it is retained in the long term, we launched the new apprentice project at the start of 2018. The project enables us to fill two needs with one deed: first, the apprentices gain first-hand experience of how cross-location projects work. They learn about the different roles within a project, by acting as project managers or project team members themselves. They can also familiarise themselves with various tools and methods. During the project, they also learn about some of the challenges that may arise, such as in-project communication or changes in project team members. Second, the apprentices can start building their own personal network during their apprenticeship, not only at their own location, but across all locations. This network will certainly be beneficial to them later on as they progress within the company.
Digital skills make apprenticeships more appealing
Throughout the project, the apprentices also learn how to use new hardware and software for specific tasks. This ranges from Skype conferences, which are used for cross-location communication, through to microcontrollers, which we use to control the measurement set-up. This is also intended to give them first-hand experience in the process. These days, apprentices are already expected to have digital skills, and young people bring a wealth of knowledge with them when they come to us in any case.
In a globally orientated company such as ours, there is always an emphasis on interconnectedness, and therefore on gaining practical experience of functional relationships. It is particularly important, with industry 4.0 in mind, that we provide forward-thinking training. Since different areas of technology intersect here, new recruits are expected to have interdisciplinary knowledge and a high degree of flexibility. Cross-location apprentice projects can be beneficial here.
The planning and design stages of our project are now complete, and we are currently in the process of ordering the various parts we need. After that, we will start building the prototype. We will present the finished product here as soon as it is ready. We would be delighted if you would follow us on our journey.