In Germany, 1926, Andreas STIHL founded a chainsaw and power tool manufacturing company. Today, Joerg Bauerle, who began his career in Germany as an apprentice, works as Technical Services Specialist for STIHL in Great Britain. Last September, Stihl GB employed two young men to its newly established Level 2 Land-based Engineering Apprenticeship programme, which Joerg is coordinating.
We began by asking Joerg how British Apprenticeships compare to German ones…
Apprenticeships are a core part of business in Germany, more so than in the UK. Apprentices at STIHL are employed to learn and play a valuable role in the business. German businesses work very closely with schools and the government and there is a very strict national standard, which is closely monitored by all of those three institutions.
Do you think apprenticeships have been perceived more favourably in Germany compared to the UK?
What I hear from British people is that 30 or 40 years ago, Apprenticeships had a good reputation. I think the UK is beginning to catch up and there’s a great opportunity for companies over here to tailor apprenticeships to their needs.
So Apprenticeships are more flexible here?
Yes, I think so, because there is a wider choice of training providers, you can create an Apprenticeship that is highly relevant for your business. I think apprenticeships in the UK have got the potential to be as good as if not better than the ones in Germany. The standards around apprenticeships are very established and therefore set in their ways, while in the UK people have realised that things have to change and everyone is very motivated and enthusiastic about this opportunity.
Why did Stihl decide to get behind Apprenticeships?
As a market leader we want to ensure the future of our business and the industry more broadly. We feel that our apprenticeship is an attractive opportunity for a young person to start a career. We need to transfer knowledge and skills from our current workforce to the next generation. Most of our staff stays with the company an average of 10 years so it’s a very experienced workforce.
How many employees does Stihl have?
Worldwide, over 14,000 people work for the business but here in Britain we employ just over 100 – we are a sales and marketing subsidiary and provide technical after sales support.
How did you recruit your apprentices?
We advertised on the National Apprenticeship Service’s website, on the training provider’s website, and we went to a recruitment agency. The quality of the applications we received were very impressive. We initially planned to employ one apprentice, but for that reason we decided to employ two.
Did the idea of being involved with Apprenticeships again appeal to you?
Yes, absolutely. It is a great pleasure for me to give two young people the opportunity to gain work experience. Thinking back to when I was their age I believe it is so important to give young people an insight into a corporate environment. We expose the apprentices to other departments within the business to give them the chance to find their own way and a career path that they will flourish. It has been a great learning curve for the business and myself.
How does their external training work?
One day a week they are at an external college. We work closely with the college and there is a strong partnership. It will take two years for the apprentices to complete the Level 2 programme. The apprentices have already indicated that they would like to work towards the Level 3 apprenticeship and potentially gain a degree afterwards.
Would you advise a young person to begin their career with an Apprenticeship?
Absolutely. For me personally it was the best option and I think I learnt so much more by working and studying at the same time because you can actually apply the theory that you study. The combination of theoretical and practical learning makes it a more efficient and sustainable way of studying and prepares the apprentices for life-long learning in our ever changing fast-pace economy. I was 18 when I started the Apprenticeship in Germany. When I came over to the UK, STIHL supported me to do a foundation degree in engineering. After completion I topped it up with an Open University business degree. Now I’m about to start a master’s degree in education.
Read the interview we did with the new recruits at Stihl GB here: Two new apprentices encourage others to do the same.