© Philipp Reinhard

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 | Philipp Reinhard)

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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