“The fact that I am part of a company that produces parts for South Africa, makes me very proud.”
Industrial mechanic at Welland & Tuxhord AG
1. Why did you decide to do this apprenticeship in Germany?
I had initially wanted to study engineering at a German university but due to the fact that my German was not sufficient for a study programme and my school-leaving qualifications did not meet the entry requirements, I decided to do an apprenticeship instead. One of the advantages of doing an apprenticeship in Germany is that you learn about the trade and get paid at the same time.
2.How did you prepare yourself and how did the application process go?
I arrived in Germany after having completed the A1 German language level in South Africa. My father-in-law informed me about the apprenticeship and since it covered some of the aspects that I was interested in studying, I decided to apply. To prepare for the application process, I continued taking German classes, which were sponsored by the city council. Even though my German was not at the level that was needed, the company decided that they would offer me a 6 months’ probation and thereafter decided that I can continue.
3. What personal and professional requirements do you think are important for this occupation?
If you decide to do this apprenticeship, you must be a hard worker. Make sure that you are interested in how systems and machines work. Luckily for me, I attended a technical high school, and we were taught subjects such as engineering as well as graphics and design. This laid the foundation for my interest in engineering and was a bonus when I started with the apprenticeship. You should have a high school certificate with average grades in mathematics and science.
4.What do you learn in vocational school and what do you learn at the company?
At the vocational school, we learn about the manufacturing and assembly processes. The different types of metal that exist are taught as well as how maintenance and automation work. Subjects such as economics and politics help us to understand the economic and operational part of the business. To ensure that we could work internationally, we had to take English classes.
At the company, I was able to put the theory into practice. We each had a work bench and here, I assembled and disassembled machines directly in the workshop. I also learnt the production using the milling machine. Very often, this gave me the opportunity to ask my colleagues about aspects of theory that I had not yet fully understood and practice what I had learnt.
5. What advice do you have for South Africans who are interested in an apprenticeship?
An apprenticeship is the perfect mix between theory and practice. It also offers a range of subjects that allow you to know many aspects of a specific job and you get paid while you gather valuable work experience. The apprenticeship also helped me improve my German language skills because in the company we only spoke German, which was one of the reasons why I enjoyed going there.
6. What tasks are you responsible for today?
Currently, I assemble the actuators and control valves that we manufacture. I repair parts in case of defaults which often involves dissembling every part and examining what the cause could be.
7. Which tasks do you enjoy the most and why?
I enjoy assembling the parts that are needed to make the machines that we manufacture. The conversations with my colleagues regarding solutions and work processes are the ones I enjoy the most because they allow us to share experiences and ideas. I also like the diversity of the work that we do, as we are dealing with different parts every day.
8. What are your career goals?
Since I was able to complete the apprenticeship earlier than expected and was offered a permanent job at Welland and Tuxhon AG, I am currently studying towards a mechanical engineering degree through a long-distance university. Once I have completed this, I will begin with my Master’s studies.
This interview was conducted by Sinenhlanhla Buthelezi. We are lucky to have Buthelezi in the media development department of the Deutsche Welle Academy.