Berndorf AG launces new Group apprentice exchange programme
Employee exchange programmes organised within the Berndorf Group reinforce mutual understanding between the participating businesses. Berndorf AG invests in training and strengthening the corporate culture to generate improved opportunities for all employees – from apprentices all the way up to senior managers. Each year around 100 young people complete apprenticeships at the Berndorf Group in Europe.
Following a 2018 re-launch, Berndorf’s international exchange programme for apprentices aims to build on this capacity across the various European sites. Six trainees will complete placements abroad at host companies in 2019. We joined the first of these young Berndorf employees at the start of his international “learning from each other” journey.
Visiting apprentice marvels at 300,000-workpiece a day output in Backnang
stoba’s head of training Markus Gebhardt on female and male trainees and the diversity of training on offer within the Berndorf Group
Siamand Mohamad from Berndorf Sondermaschinenbau (BSG) was the second Austrian apprentice to visit stoba’s training centre in Backnang in a matter of months. Like Sebastian, the other recent visiting trainee from Austria, Siamand was amazed at the production technology in use at stoba: “Milling on a 5-axis CNC machine was a totally new experience for me and the output of 300,000 workpieces a day at Backnang was extremely impressive.”
The great working atmosphere and the efforts made by the staff at stoba to make sure he was well looked after – especially thanks to his exchange buddy Nico Mäule – also left a lasting impression on Siamand. Nico became the first stoba trainee to play the role of exchange buddy twice. He was just as positive as Siamand about the exchange visit: “Jan – as Siamand soon wanted me to call him – took a keen interest. We got on well with each other both inside and outside work.” They both want to keep in touch, and fixed-term assignments abroad later on in their careers are becoming more appealing. “The exchange programme seems to be making the world of Berndorf more tangible for the trainees,” says Markus Gebhardt, the head of training at stoba. In our interview with Markus Gebhardt below, we asked for his initial thoughts on how the programme was going.
Mr Gebhardt, what are the distinctive features of apprenticeship training at stoba? How do the apprenticeship programmes on offer in Berndorf contrast with those Backnang?
I think what makes the stoba model unique is the uninterrupted 12-month basic training programme at our training centre in Backnang. All trainees, without exception, are trained in real manual engineering skills – from drilling and milling to turning and CNC programming.
At the end of their first year they do three practical pieces of project work. The trainees keep the workpieces they produce – this has worked out well, because they are highly motivated to pay a lot of attention to their products. From their second year the trainees come to us for specific courses, but are able to hold their own in their departments thanks to the foundation they already have.
The big thing we have in common with training in Berndorf is the individual, personal support provided by an understanding supervisor, who remains a constant throughout.
Nurcan Göksel recently became the first female trainee to take part in the Berndorf exchange programme. How likely do you think it is that we’ll soon see other female trainees following in her footsteps?
I think there’s a good chance; five of the 44 trainees we have at the moment are young women. The opportunities on offer are exactly the same for everyone. Several times over the past few years, we’ve sent both male and female trainees on placements to stoba’s production facilities in the Czech Republic and China, for instance.
What is the significance for stoba when a growing number of young women opt for technical careers? Is it noticeable in terms of production output or the working atmosphere?
We’re very happy to have five female trainees at stoba. We would have been happy to receive a lot more applications from women for our industrial apprenticeship programmes. In our experience the overwhelmingly ambitious, energetic and diligent young female engineers often make the boys pause for thought. I mean that in a positive way: t supports the progress of the whole group, and secures approval and professional recognition for the young women working in production.
Two female industrial mechanics are currently working towards becoming qualified industrial forewomen on our stoba training programme. Both have the professional and personal attributes to take on supervisory positions when they complete the course in late 2021.
Nurcan Göksel first female trainee to take part in Berndorf AG’s apprentice exchange programme.
Just like Siamand Mohamad from Berndorf, the stoba trainee can look forward to attractive international job opportunities thanks to her industrial apprenticeship.
She is 18 years old, in the third year of her apprenticeship in precision engineering, and has already gained work experience on two continents. Nurcan Göksel was the first female trainee to take part in Berndorf AG’s new apprentice exchange programme. Just a few months after travelling to China with fellow vocational school pupils – where she helped build a working 3D-printed model car – she was welcomed to the Apprenticeship Workshops in Berndorf for her exchange visit.
To gather workplace experience after finishing school, Nurcan did apprenticeship taster courses in office administration and driving instruction, as well as at a veterinary practice. The young woman from Baden-Württemberg wanted to explore a range of different options. Whether the profession was male or female-dominated did not matter to her; she was more concerned about opportunities to gain international experience. Nurcan’s older brother, a machinist at stoba Präzisionstechnik, worked at stoba’s Chinese subsidiary in Yantai for 18 months. That was motivation enough for Nurcan to follow suit and take her first steps towards a career in the metalworking industry.
Nurcan and metalworking – a great fit
Working with metal turned out to be a good choice for Nurcan – it was kind of love at first sight. She has really taken to practical machine work: “What I really enjoy is being able to use my hands. I get more satisfaction out of that than I would pushing paper around an office. When I’m at work in stoba’s 1/1000mm department, I can clearly see how we trainees are achieving our goals and constantly improving. It’s hard to believe how much the speed of our machining work has increased over the first three years of our training.”
The metalworking at stoba Präzisionstechnik is extremely detailed in nature, so Nurcan was fascinated by the much bigger plant and machinery at Berndorf. Her host Siamand Mohamad, a third-year trainee mechanical engineer at Berndorf’s Apprenticeship Workshops, made a good first impression by kicking off Nurcan’s visit with a tour of the production facilities at Berndorf Bäderbau, Berndorf Sondermaschinenbau and Berndorf Band.
Amazing discoveries in Berndorf
As Nurcan says: “I was really impressed by the massive Fermat milling machine at Sondermaschinenbau – I’d never seen anything like it before. And getting the opportunity to try out TIG welding for the first time was a valuable experience for me. In Berndorf there’s just something amazing to discover at each of the companies. It would have been great to stay in Berndorf for another week.” Nurcan’s exchange buddy Siamand had his work cut out trying to top all this with his plans for their free time. But he came up trumps with a trip to Vienna – including a slice of authentic Sachertorte cake.
When Siamand completed the exchange by visiting stoba in Backnang two weeks later, Nurcan was not able to be there in person, but knew that her colleague Nico would take good care of their guest from Berndorf. “The friendly atmosphere at stoba is similar to that at the Berndorf companies. As young people we have lots of opportunities to get ahead if we learn to show initiative and support each other,” said Nurcan.
Female engineers strong together
For Nurcan, helping the four young women who had just started their technical training programmes at Berndorf by giving them some tips – gleaned from her own exam preparation materials – was a natural thing to do. “Together we are strong. We girls working in metalworking engineering jobs have to stick together if we want to become even stronger!” says Nurcan with a smile.
“Use your head and your heart – that’s how we get outstanding apprentices”
In a short interview Dieter Peley, Director of the Apprenticeship Workshops in Berndorf, provides an initial appraisal of the new exchange programme for trainees in the Berndorf Group.
What stands out in particular is the enthusiasm with which every apprentice or trainee buddy at the host company does their best to put together an attractive training and social programme. Are you surprised that these young people put their hearts and souls into the programme?
Dieter Peley: I think that too often in everyday life, young people are denied the challenge of making decisions for themselves. When we were first putting the programme together, we could already see how the apprentices’ personal initiative shone through when they were supported in finding solutions to problems, but also had the necessary freedom.
From your perspective, how important is it that an exchange programme like this isn’t only about professional expertise? In a family of companies like the Berndorf Group, what part is played by apprentices doing things together in their free time too?
Up to now, the exchanges have always been for individuals, so I think it’s especially important that each apprentice has a contact person at their exchange destination and a colleague – or friend – for after work. This helps them to get to know the area they are visiting and to fit in. And of course it means our trainees form stronger connections with each other.
When you look at the current Austrian labour market statistics, the number of people starting an apprenticeship is growing significantly – by over 5%. Metalworking professions are among the most popular of all. If they want to stay in their chosen profession for the long term, should a young person’s decision be more a matter of using their head or following their heart?
Personal interests always play an important role. I try to bring these out and develop them during the apprenticeship. When choosing a profession, you should always use your head and your heart – if you do, you get something we've often experienced at Berndorf: outstanding apprentices!
Trainee exchange: stoba Präzisionstechnik and Berndorf Sondermaschinenbau
Nico Mäule and Sebastian Radbauer ventured to take a look beyond the horizon of their own apprenticeships
The most recent exchange link-up in the international job rotation programme for apprentices, between stoba and the Berndorf Apprenticeship Workshops, had the flavour of a Champions League round. The home and away legs for Berndorf protégé Sebastian Radbauer and stoba trainee Nico Mäule took place within just three weeks of each other.
From getting to know each other in Backnang...
Kicking off, Sebastian travelled from Berndorf to automotive specialist stoba in Backnang, southern Germany. At Langen Äckern – the address of stoba’s headquarters – he was able to pick up many new impressions and insights between 7 and 13 July. As Sebastian says himself: “I hadn’t expected that the programme could be as varied and fascinating as it actually was. Nico Mäule, my exchange buddy at stoba, took the time to explain everything to me. I was much better able to understand processes that were new to me, like CNC turning and milling, and even rotary indexing.”
...to the return visit to friends in Berndorf
But the two young men also had plenty to talk about outside work, says Nico: “It was a big help that we had already been in touch for some time beforehand. This meant I could plan the days I would spend together with Sebastian better – both the working time and the free time. We got on well, and were able to implement all or plans at work too.” Nico set off with great anticipation for his visit to Berndorf from 21 to 27 July at Berndorf Sondermaschinenbau, where he was able to cement this new working friendship.
“Not to be taken for granted and a great opportunity”
Markus Gebhardt, head of training at stoba, speaks very highly of the new programme in the Berndorf Group: “We know that this kind of exchange for apprentices is not to be taken for granted and we really value the possibility. It offers our younger colleagues great opportunities.”
Gebhardt’s opposite number Dieter Peley, Director of the Apprenticeship Workshops in Berndorf, takes a similar view: “The chance our apprentices get to broaden their horizons is invaluable. In the past we’ve gained experience of apprentices from other companies coming to our industrial park for training. Now the possibilities have multiplied, because the exchange programme opens up an international dimension.”
The anticipation before meeting up again was great, but the curiosity about Berndorf was even greater. Zafer Ertas, an industrial mechanics trainee at venturetec mechatronics, met Jan Jägersberger – his Berndorf colleague who is only a little older than Zafer – when Jan visited venturetec. This was the first placement in the Berndorf Group’s new international apprenticeship exchange programme – and four months later, Zafer completed the exchange with a visit to Berndorf.
Zafer Ertas: keen to find out more about Berndorf
Zafer, who works in his home town of Kaufbeuren in Germany and attends the local vocational school, was well-prepared for his Austrian adventure. The 19-year-old had his first taste of Berndorf when he attended the 175th anniversary celebrations in the town last autumn. “We didn’t make it to the football tournament, but the anniversary party was a fantastic experience. I still hadn’t seen much of the factories in Berndorf, so I wanted to make up for that this time.”
The son of a mechanical engineer with Turkish roots, Zafer developed an appreciation for the skilled trades during his early teens: “In the summer holidays I used to work on building sites or help friends. From the ninth grade I also did work placements at various companies.” After completing his 10th grade exams in 2018, starting an apprenticeship at venturetec mechatronics was the obvious next step.
An exchange buddy in just two weeks
Zafer began his trainee programme and worked with dedication. When venturetec’s CEO Stephan Neubauer informed staff about the Berndorf Group’s new apprenticeship exchange programme, Zafer expressed an interest. From that point everything progressed very quickly, says Zafer: “Just two months later Jan Jägersberger from Berndorf arrived as our visiting trainee and I became his exchange buddy in Kaufbeuren. I was really looking forward to the second round and the return visit in summer. I wanted to find out how big the company in Berndorf actually is and how they go about their work here.”
Jan made a big effort to accommodate the wishes of his exchange buddy. He thought hard about how Zafer could gain some lasting impressions of working life, the culture and the young people in Austria during his two weeks in Berndorf. As well as having the opportunity to get to know some of the metalworking technicians at the Apprenticeship Workshops, Zafer was given a tour of the facilities of Berndorf Band, Bäderbau, Sondermaschinenbau and Lumpi Berndorf at the Berndorf works.
A taste of a (working) life
The Director of Berndorf’s Apprenticeship Workshops Dieter Peley is full of praise for the initiative the two young men have shown: “For their respective ‘home leg’, both of them considered what they wanted to show their guest, which for me is an important part of this exchange programme. Preparing to present their place of work, while taking into account the perspective and needs of the visitor, requires participants in the apprenticeship exchange programme to demonstrate considerable capabilities. The fact that these participants, at the age of almost 20, already have a bit more personal and professional maturity was certainly an advantage in this respect.”
The two skilled workers in training confirmed this. According to Jan: “The exchange visit is like a next-level taster course. We already have at least some knowledge about the processes in the respective profession and so we know what questions to ask. Zafer showed great interest in everything.” Jan seems to have successfully mastered the ‘return fixture’ following his own highly informative trip to venturetec mechatronics. His guest from Germany was so impressed with his tour of the Research and Development Center at Berndorf that he went back there to look round again several times.
“I saw things there that I had no idea about before. And I was very impressed by the shiny polished endless belts made from high-quality steel.” The awestruck guest also made a good impression at Berndorf, says Dieter Peley: “Zafer made some very skilful first attempts at MIG and TIG welding. I can see him fitting in very well at various companies.”
But back home at venturetec in Kaufbeuren, they need not worry that there is a ‘transfer’ in the offing as Zafer has no plans to work abroad for an extended period just yet. The budding industrial mechanic does not want to give up the life he enjoys in Kaufbeuren, particularly because he is such a big fan of successful local ice hockey team ESV Kaufbeuren. “Since our new stadium – the Erdgas Schwaben Arena – was completed, the whole town has gone ice hockey crazy.” So for a long stay abroad without the risk of ice hockey withdrawal symptoms, Canada would seem to be the only option...😊
After spending a week in Kaufbeuren – involving lots of snow, wintery temperatures and, most importantly, plenty of new experiences and one or two burgeoning friendships – Jan Jägersberger makes his way back home to Berndorf. The Group’s new apprentice exchange programme seems to have got off to a great start.
Katharina Heinrich, venturetec mechatronics’ HR and Training Manager, is certainly very impressed. “Jan was immediately made to feel very welcome by our trainers. The free-time activities which Jan and our apprentices took part in also encouraged the apprentices to share their experiences with each other. Jan and his exchange buddy Zafer also hit it off straight away. Zafer will also be taking part in the programme when he has the opportunity to see how things are done at Jan’s company later this year.”
More exchange opportunities to promote closer collaboration
venturetec mechatronics will definitely take part in the apprentice exchange programme next year, too, says Heinrich: “We’d like to be able to offer a longer exchange of two weeks. This would mean the trainees have time to complete a project or a specific piece of work, for instance. You can’t really do that in a single week.”
Coming a year before Jan completes his final apprenticeship examinations in Austria, the week spent in Germany has certainly been one of the most fascinating experiences of his training so far. “The milling and turning on Tuesday and Wednesday involved lots of programming and gave me the chance to apply some things I’ve learned at vocational school. I haven’t had the opportunity try these things out at my company yet, so it was good practice for my exam. On Thursday I was introduced to some welding techniques which were totally new for me; aluminium welding, for instance. I’d never seen it being done before, and at venturetec they let me try it out straight away.”
20-year-old Jan Jägersberger sets off for the railway station to make the longest train journey of his life. He is in the third year of a process engineering apprenticeship at Berndorf Sondermaschinenbau (BSG), and it will take him six hours to reach his new temporary workplace in Kaufbeuren in Bavaria, Germany.
First guest apprentice on the new programme
Kaufbeuren is the home of venturetec mechatronics, the Berndorf Group’s mechatronics specialists (https://www.venturetec.de). Jan will be the first guest trainee to visit the company as part of the Group’s new apprentice exchange programme.
The young Berndorfer, a former academic school pupil who made the switch to an industrial apprenticeship, settles into his seat on the train, filled with expectation and some apprehension. A pair of headphones are plugged into his phone and he selects a travel music playlist. “It relaxes me. I don’t make many calls on my phone, but it’s great for listening to music.”
The Austrian has already found out some important info about his host company in Germany. “I know that venturetec mechatronics, like BDG where I’m training, is very engineering-focused, but that electrical enginnering is much more important to what they do. At the end of last year, when the head of our apprenticeship workshops, Dieter Peley, asked me if I was interested in doing an exchange as part of the new programme, I said yes on the spot. And now I’m on my way there – I can’t wait!”
Jan will soon meet his exchange buddy Zafer Ertas, who is training to be an industrial technician at venturetec mechatronics. It will be Zafer’s job to work alongside Jan and show him the ropes. Zafer will then complete the exchange by travelling to Austria to work at BSG this summer.
Vienna/Berndorf (9 July 2018) – Over 1,500 children and young people flocked to the 6th Kindertag der Industrie (KIDI), held at Haus der Industrie on Schwarzenbergplatz in Vienna. The BSG Apprenticeship Workshops’ activity stand, designed by four first-year Berndorf apprentices, was a great hit with the visitors, who were aged between five and 14 years old.
Under the supervision of apprenticeship workshops head Dieter Peley, the trainees gave the visitors to KIDI a taste of what working on the shop floor at a modern industrial company is all about at four different workstations tailored to their age group. Peley commented: “We focused on proving information on the key skills needed to work in the electrical, mechanical and welding engineering occupations that we provide apprenticeships in.” Berndorf AG Management Board Member Franz Viehböck opened the Berndorf stand by welcoming the guests and introducing the Berndorf Group.
The rush for the Berndorf workstations could then begin. The chance to roll up their sleeves and try out a range of metalworking tasks went down extremely well with the visitors. The goal of giving them an enjoyable, informative and hands-on introduction to the kind of careers that are possible at Berndorf companies was certainly achieved. Dieter Peley thanked his young team of helpers: “Our mechanical engineering apprentice Sophie Skobek, electrical engineering apprentices Florian Riegler and Philip Reischer, and process engineering apprentice Matteo Freddio did a fantastic job. We answered lots of the visitors’ questions about the length and structure of the apprenticeships as well as career prospects.”
31 exhibitors attended KIDI this year, an event which Berndorf AG regularly participates in. Regine Midder, HR manager of the Berndorf AG, as well as the group’s team of trainers value the opportunity it gives them to meet potential new apprentices in person. BSG Apprenticeship Workshops attended the exhibition – which was jointly hosted by the Federation of Austrian Industries, Wissensfabrik Austria and Science Pool – as part of its year-round programme of information activities. This continues in autumn with appearances at several career events for young people in Lower Austria.
BERNDORF – (2 May 2018) Young female visitors at a relatively new event designed to get girls interested in technology-based career paths – all part of a strong tradition in Berndorf. On 26 April, a group of 17 students from Neue Mittelschule Berndorf attended Girls’ Day at the Berndorf Apprentice Workshops, which was organised by Berndorf Sondermaschinenbau (BSG) this year.
“We can see that there is a high level of interest: each year, more and more girls are coming to us to get a taste of a technical career in industry,” confirmed Dieter Peley, head of the Berndorf Apprentice Workshops. With the support of his male and female apprentices, he prepared and hosted the Girls’ Day in Berndorf for the fourth time, creating a memorable experience for everyone involved.
The young female visitors were given an insight into a range of industrial trades, from mechatronic engineer to lathe operator – all of which can be learned at the Berndorf Apprentice Workshops, including a school leaver’s certificate qualification if required. The girls were given the opportunity to put their practical skills to the test and find out more about the role of computers and IT in the metal processing industries. Dieter Peley believes that the event successfully addressed some of the misgivings surrounding a tech career: “In some cases I think we managed to foster a real enthusiasm for a more ‘exotic’ career path!”
Because one in two Austrian apprentices initially only has a choice of three different career paths, Berndorf AG Supervisory Board Member Sonja Zimmermann is pinning her hopes on this fresh wave of enthusiasm, having spoken to various participants at this year’s Girls’ Day: “In actual fact, there are more than 200 career paths open to apprentices. The career choices that each person makes become more informed as more knowledge and understanding feeds into the decision-making process. I really appreciate the important contribution that our BSG team and current apprentices have made towards achieving this through the Girl’s Day event.”
BERNDORF – Past and present international success stories from the Berndorf Group show that the combination of groundbreaking technology and an innovative spirit to create an effective driving force helps to lay the foundations for a flourishing and enduring business model. But how can the necessary parameters for innovation be brought to life on stage concisely and yet expressively so that they are understood worldwide? This was the question facing this year’s 16 graduates from the ninth Berndorf Academy intake as they prepared their final presentation.
“Berndorf racing team” on the Academy stage
The highly convincing and articulate answer that the team came up with for their stage presentation grabbed the attention of the audience, which consisted of members of the Berndorf AG Management and Supervisory Boards, as well as management board members from Berndorf’s subsidiaries. Just as the perfect allocation of tasks enables a pit crew to get a Formula One car back out onto the track, the Berndorf Academy participants recreated an F1 car step-by-step in the various parts of the presentation.
Just as Formula One is powered by innovation, the formula for success for Berndorf’s innovative brand took shape in the course of the presentation. Deceptively realistic staged interviews with motor sport greats such as FIA boss Jean Todt, safety delegate Charlie Whiting and racing icon Mark Webber brought the “Berndorf AG Racing Team” into sharper focus. Finally, the Academy team highlighted their proposals for optimising Berndorf’s innovation parameters by acting out a conversation with former world champion Niki Lauda, who is well known for his sharp analysis.
About the Berndorf Academy
The Berndorf Academy was launched in 2009. The aim of the multi-module part-time development programme for talented employees is to give them detailed hands-on experience of Berndorf’s management culture. Around 150 employees of Berndorf group companies have taken part in the programme since it was set up.
My name is Tamara Lechner and I study process engineering at TU Wien. I found out about the programme through my high-school chemistry teacher. Ultimately, I chose this area because it brings together the fundamentals of technical chemistry and machine engineering. As the course progressed I developed a particular interest in thermodynamics, material technology and energy technology. My hobbies include reading fantasy novels and computer games, as well as sports such as inline skating and skiing to recharge my batteries after all the brainwork.
I applied for the Berndorf talent programme so that I can pick up practical experience of working at a company during my master’s degree as a direct complement to all the theory we learn at the university. I started at Aichelin in Mödling in November 2017. During the initial training phase I was given various small tasks to complete, which made it easier for me to find out more about the company’s equipment and processes. After that, I was assigned a small project which started with theoretical calculations before I went on to participate in real-life technical measurements. I have been working independently on a larger project since February: revising mechanical dimensioning tools used at Safed’s plants.
I am on course to complete my studies on schedule in 2019. My goal is to work in process engineering, where I want to focus on the exciting new challenges facing the segment.
The talent programme gives me the opportunity to build up an insight into my prospective future career, as well as the flexibility needed to progress with and complete my studies on time.
BERNDORF, 20 March 2018 – Berndorf Sondermaschinenbau (BSG) and Volksschule Berndorf primary school had a special career-themed project in store for the school’s fourth years this March. Over three consecutive days, 35 girls and boys in their final year visited the company’s production facilities to see for themselves what metalworking is all about. The aim of the joint educational project, which was sponsored by the Berndorf Private Foundation, was to raise awareness of apprenticeships for jobs in industry.
Volksschule Berndorf primary school and the BSG Apprenticeship Workshops worked together to plan a school project on the theme of metal for the first time in 2014. So this was the second visit to BSG by school pupils in four years. Head of the BSG Apprenticeship Workshops Dieter Peley commented: “The reactions were very positive. The pupils were only ten years old, but they were able to form a good initial impression on their tour around our facilities, and tried out skills like filing, grinding and polishing, as well as a simple soldering exercise.”
A change of scenery – and reaping the rewards
The pupils enjoyed the novelty of the hands-on morning in a year in which many of them will have to make their first choices about school types and career directions. The initiative means the BSG Apprenticeship Workshops can support pupils in their decision-making and create a positive impression. Dieter Peley was pleased to have already achieved some success: “Some of the kids who came to the first metalworking orientation morning we held four years ago have now signed up for an apprenticeship taster course with us.”
Apprenticeships in Austria have grown in popularity once again after a long period of stagnation. In 2017 the number of first-year apprentices grew by about six percent in Lower Austria. A positive trend, which this Berndorf Private Foundation initiative confirms. Sonja Zimmerman, Chairwoman of the foundation’s board of trustees, said: “Investing in the education of our children is an important investment in Austria’s future. When it comes to science and technology in particular, primary schools are often failing to include the kinds of activities that will awaken kids’ curiosity in these fascinating subjects. This is why the Berndorf Private Foundation is supporting Volksschule Berndorf’s science project days.”