When I started my apprenticeship at Degussa in Frankfurt nearly 41 years ago, I had no way of knowing that I would have to cross “seven bridges” in the years to come. The seven bridges I’m referring to are the seven different logos I’ve been able to experience without ever switching companies.
A lot has stayed the same, much has changed. The people who have stayed on during these fast-paced times have worked with me and given me support. People are always what’s important to me, which is presumably why I’ve spent the longest phase of my professional life in the apprenticeships office. What “wisdom” and experience would I share with the next generation? Don’t be afraid to ask questions and challenge the status quo; don’t be afraid to stand out in a crowd. Apprenticeships at Evonik have really stood out thanks to our IPA (International Program for Apprentices); after all, what company sends 50 - 60 of its apprentices and co-op students abroad each year for their apprenticeships? We do! IPA has been in existence for four years, and I think of it as “my baby.” The response has been very positive, both from young people and from their mentors abroad.
Another one of Evonik’s strengths is that apprentices are given opportunities for advancement if they demonstrate the right level of performance and dedication. The networks that they build, both here and abroad, are worth their weight in gold. A lot of the apprentices that I have hired over all these years still work for the company, many in management positions here and overseas. And many former apprentices have worked their way into the role of mentor, just as I did. I have never regretted taking that step—I look forward to the new apprentices every year and follow their personal development closely. Personally, I’ve been part of a “happy hour group” for about 20 years. We’re all former apprentices who at some point realized that going out to lunch didn’t give us enough time together.
I balance things out by participating in theater in my free time. Being a member of a community theater group in Hanau keeps my gray matter fresh, so to speak. And of course being around young people helps in that regard too.