Sebastian Ehrenfeld talks about his apprenticeship as industrial management assistant at WEIMA Maschinenbau GmbH, the shredder specialist and one of the leading companies in the recycling industry, with headquarters in Ilsfeld, near Heilbronn, Germany.
How did I come to the decision to enter an apprenticeship?
I decided relatively late to pursue an apprenticeship. It was at the beginning of the tenth grade, to be exact (final year of secondary school). Before that, I had always thought that I want to go to higher secondary school. But I increasingly realised that this path would not be the right one for me, because I wanted to get practical experience, in addition to classroom learning. Besides, I wanted to finally enter into the professional world. I was really excited at the prospect of it. Well, what can I say, I haven’t regretted it at all!
What convinced me to send an application to WEIMA?
After my father and I researched on the Internet and inquired about training programs in the area around the Heilbronn, we eventually came across the company WEIMA. Their website appealed to me instantly, which is why I decided to get more information about them.
Other important factors for me were the topics of Environment and Sustainability. For me, WEIMA is one of the leading companies worldwide in recycling technology. I was impressed by this commitment to the environment and sustainability. Also, WEIMA is a mid-sized company, which I found great. Everyone knows almost every employee by their names, and the information channels and decision-making paths are significantly shorter than in large corporate groups. I could conclude this from conversations I had with other apprentices at the school. Another decisive reason was that the company is very well represented internationally, with locations overseas (for example, in USA, France, Poland and the UK) and thousands of customers around the whole world. Of course, you would also think of the opportunity of an overseas stay in the future. Finally, it was clear to me: I would like to apply there.
What happens after you have write an application to WEIMA?
After I had written and sent the application, I got a quick response and was invited to a job interview. The head of training there offered me a one-week internship at WEIMA. For me, it was the perfect way to find out if I liked the job or not. I got to know some of my future tasks and learned first hand what to expect. Then I finally got my confirmation. The only thing I needed now was a copy of my birth certificate, a medical check-up, and my bank details. After that, the apprenticeship training contract could be signed for the training starting in September. I still had time until then. That’s why I decided to do a vacation job at WEIMA. This had two advantages. One, I could earn a bit of money. Two, I would get the opportunity to get to know the employees and processes better, which was even more valuable than the money.
What does a typical workday look like?
At the beginning of the training, the tasks that are assigned are still relatively manageable, as everything first needs to be explained and shown. Gradually, you get more confidence and are therefore assigned more tasks. Of course, depending on the department, the area of responsibility differs and is perhaps more difficult or easier. That’s what makes an apprenticeship training so exciting. By working in different departments such as purchasing, accounting, EDP, marketing, despatch and sales, you have a lot of variety in your daily work.
I was even allowed to accompany technicians and salesmen for commissioning machines abroad. Moreover, WEIMA sometimes also shreds and briquettes a variety of curious things. For instance, confiscated cigarettes or even bank notes for various central banks. Sometimes, even old cabinets or files are shred. At WEIMA, you recover and recycle practically your own waste, which is generated in the office or in production. How many companies can actually claim to be doing something like this? Often such things are then filmed and shared on YouTube or Facebook.
At WEIMA, you have to frequently deal with international branches. I love communicating with colleagues from WEIMA America, which is located in Fort Mill, South Carolina. Mostly it’s about contracts or parts for machines that need to be ordered. However, discussions about football and basketball cannot help but creep in.
Despite the practical training one still has to go to the vocational school. Once or twice a week, depending on the school timetable. Thus, besides practical training, you also learn the theory. The subjects you have to learn as industrial management assistant are business administration, economics, social studies, German, English, management and control, information processing (information technology) and religion (optional). I find the intensive courses for MS Excel, Word and PowerPoint to be particularly helpful. They are again explained in detail and demonstrated under the Information Technology subject. Other things that you learn and can immediately apply are, for instance, how to draft a letter of complaint or a quote. You learn these in the subjects German and Business Administration.
How does your personal life change due to an apprenticeship training?
If you have entered an apprenticeship training, you must adjust yourself accordingly. The biggest hurdle for me was the jump from school into the professional world. Earlier you used to be home by noon time and could finish everything related to school. Now you have to do all that in the evening, after work. Another adjustment that you need to make is working during holidays, which you otherwise wouldn’t have to. During this time, as in normal schools, there is no school. But that does not include the work in the company.
What exactly does WEIMA do?
WEIMA Maschinenbau GmbH is a globally active company with over 40 years of experience in producing shredders for a wide variety of tasks, among others, for customers from the plastics, wood, and recycling industries. The WEIMA Group employs around 170 people worldwide and has sales offices in Europe, North and South America, and Asia, and more than 50 agencies worldwide.
The company produces only in Germany at the two locations in IIsfeld and Annaburg (Saxony-Anhalt) and participates in over 50 international trade fairs in a year. With an apprenticeship training rate of more than ten percent, the company takes on social responsibility and thereby secures the future of the company. WEIMA trains apprentices in the following professions, industrial management assistant, electronics technician for industrial engineering, industrial mechanic or warehouse/logistics specialist.
WEIMA sells two kinds of machines: shredders and briquette presses. The aim of shredders is to shred waste products or materials from production in such a way that the maximum economic added value can be achieved, whether it is for sorting, cleaning, transporting or further processing. WEIMA offers more than a dozen different shredders, starting from the smallest machine, the WL 500 having a working width of 500 mm up to the largest machine, the Powerline 3000 having a working width of 3 meters, weight of about 26 tonnes, and a hydraulic drive with 350kW power.
With the most diverse varieties of machines, materials such as plastic, wood, paper/cartons, metal, biomass, waste or data carriers can be shredded efficiently.
With a briquette press, the shredded materials can be pressed into compact briquettes without using any binding agents. Depending on the intended use, the individual machines can be designed for different briquette sizes as well as for different shapes. Briquetted residual materials have up to 90 percent less volume compared to loose material. This can help save space and money.
What’s next after the apprenticeship?
My aim is to be absorbed in the company. That’s why it’s important for me to get a good vocational education and training and complete it with good marks and a lot of practical knowledge. Besides, after spending three years as an apprentice, you are truly settled into the company, and who would want to leave it immediately? Certainly not such a great team as this.
I am also enquiring right away about further training opportunities that are suitable for me. Those who have completed apprenticeship as industrial management assistant have many opportunities for further training.
You can pursue further training as state-certified business economist, advanced training as business management specialist (Chamber of Industry and Commerce), further training as certified accountant, or study at a college of economic sciences. The further training as business economist takes two years as full-time and four years as part-time. If you decide to go for the business management specialist course of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, then the duration will be three to four years, depending on whether you do it full time or part time. With training as certified accountant, you become a specialist in the field of finance and accounting. This can take between three months and two years.
So many options! But I still have time to decide.