© ebm-papst

Wanted: techie team players

ebm-papst uses part­ner­ships on many plat­forms to find skilled young talent to safe­guard its future. One such plat­form is “Jugend forscht,” whose regional contest has been orga­nized by the company’s Mulfingen head­quar­ters for 20 years.

About 400 young people are currently in training at ebm-papst loca­tions in Germany. In Mulfingen alone, they can choose from twelve profes­sions and nine dual study programs. According to a study by Capital, a busi­ness maga­zine, and ausbildung.de, a training portal, ebm-papst is among the best compa­nies in Germany for training programs. But the fan and motor manu­fac­turer has no interest in resting on its laurels, espe­cially since it is becoming increas­ingly diffi­cult to recruit young people in rural areas. “Appli­cant numbers for training posi­tions in Mulfingen have been falling steadily, from 1,000 in 2013 to less than 500 now,” says Bernd Ludwig, who has been in charge of training at ebm-papst for 25 years. “And most of them are inter­ested in commer­cial rather than scien­tific or tech­nical profes­sions.” But tech­nical talent is indis­pens­able to safe­guard the future for the inno­v­a­tive world market leader.

Most appli­cants are inter­ested in commer­cial rather than scien­tific or tech­nical profes­sions.

Bernd Ludwig, in charge of training at ebm-papst Mulfingen

So when the orga­nizers of “Jugend forscht,” a German science contest, approached ebm-papst more than 20 years ago about spon­soring the contest for the Heil­bronn-Fran­conia region, company manage­ment wisely approved the request as they consid­ered it an ideal plat­form for promoting interest in tech­nology among young people and for recruiting fresh talent. That turned out to be a good deci­sion.

Launch pad for young researchers

A current example is Lauritz Abel, 19, who has been with ebm-papst as a trainee since September 2018 thanks to Jugend forscht. He and a school­mate took second place in the “work­place” cate­gory at the national contest with their anti-stick coating for deicing truck tarpau­lins. Even though the inven­tion is not a perfect fit with ebm-papst’s tech­nical focus, training super­visor Bernd Ludwig was impressed with its creators right away. “Like all Jugend forscht contes­tants, they approached their subject with great enthu­siasm and we were able to see for ourselves how well Lauritz works in a team and how well he explained tech­nical things to younger visi­tors.”

The clever high-schooler had exactly the kind of traits ebm-papst is looking for in young employees: soft skills, team spirit and enthu­siasm for tech­nology. “Even as a kid, I was inter­ested in all kinds of tech­nical stuff, and later I repaired old trac­tors myself,” says Lauritz Abel. While the event was still in progress, Bernd Ludwig spoke with him about his training prospects at ebm-papst.

Lauritz Abel (left) and his school friend Kevin Erdmann took second place in the federal compe­ti­tion of Jugend forscht (youth research) for a non-stick coating for trucks. (Photo | Philipp Rein­hard)

Six former Jugend forscht contes­tants have started their careers in Mulfingen so far. Except for Lauritz, all of them knew ebm-papst already. “Most of them were with TICK, the ‘Technik Initia­tive Campus Künzelsau,’” says Ludwig. With TICK, Heil­bronn Univer­sity and ebm-papst support the tech­nical curriculum at local schools from the 8th grade onward with soft­ware and hard­ware and enable young hobby­ists to exper­i­ment and play around in extracur­ric­ular tech­nology working groups. “Jugend forscht is just one of many venues where we get acquainted with young people and they with us,” adds Ludwig. Those who take an interest in tech­nical training have much more to choose from than studying engi­neering or learning a trade. They can even do both at once thanks to a coop­er­a­tive study program offered by Heil­bronn Univer­sity and leading regional compa­nies since 2000.

Clever combi­na­tion of theory and prac­tice

Lauritz Abel also chose this model. As he explains, “First I’m getting two years of training to become an elec­tronics tech­ni­cian at ebm-papst, then I’ll study automa­tion in Künzelsau for a bachelor’s degree.” So theory comes after prac­tice; first the young people learn the processes and require­ments of the work­place, and then they can approach their studies from a much different perspec­tive. ebm-papst can take on six such coop­er­a­tive study students per year.

First I’m getting two years of training to become an elec­tronics tech­ni­cian at ebm-papst, then I’ll study automa­tion in Künzelsau for a bachelor’s degree.

Lauritz Abel, trainee at ebm-papst

But whether student or trainee, Bernd Ludwig and his team make sure that all 70 to 75 newcomers per year can inten­sively put their skills to use and improve them from day one. “It’s impor­tant to us that our young employees are quickly able to work inde­pen­dently and take on respon­si­bility,” he says. For “his” trainees, that also applies outside their special­ties – in inter­dis­ci­pli­nary, social and digital projects such as the media working group, the trainee home page, exchange programs or the energy scouts who have been searching through the company looking for ways to save energy since 2010.

On their own, the trainees also orga­nize infor­ma­tional events about training in the company and job appli­cant training at schools. “Peer-to-peer contacts are espe­cially valu­able,” says Bernd Ludwig. “Of course the kids are more willing to talk to people close to their own age than with gray-haired men in suits.”

As a trainee, Lauritz Abel combines theory and prac­tice. (Foto | ebm-papst)

Youth is future

And so they come full circle. The trainees pass their enthu­siasm on to other young people and also work on finding their own succes­sors – for the good of their company, which can only stay inno­v­a­tive and successful with well-trained and dedi­cated new employees. And of course every trainee gets a job offer from ebm-papst, with 80 to 85 percent accepting right away and others returning after their studies or after addi­tional training – if they did not already accept the coop­er­a­tive study program as Lauritz Abel did. “With people like him to set an example, we hope to reach other people with tech­nical talent,” says Bernd Ludwig. A role that Abel is sure to welcome since he seems to be very happy with his employer so far. As he says, “A company is inter­esting for young people when it offers secure jobs, good pay, good tools and a good team – like ebm-papst. The tech­nology they have here is just awesome. And so is the working atmos­phere.”

ebm-papst and the Talent Company

Manage­ment at ebm-papst is of the opinion that one can never do enough when it comes to recruiting young talent, so they initi­ated a part­ner­ship in November 2018 with the Talent Company, an initia­tive of the Strahle­mann-Stiftung (www.strahlemann.org). Its aim is to improve career orien­ta­tion for school­children throughout Germany by bringing them into contact with poten­tial future employers. The program is jointly designed by teachers, busi­nesses and other educa­tion stake­holders and includes courses, work­shops, company presen­ta­tions, trainee reports, lectures by busi­ness person­al­i­ties and much more. Training super­visor Bernd Ludwig welcomes the initia­tive and says, “With this new program, we’re hoping to reach regions where we haven’t shown ourselves that much so far.”

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