Pilot Project: Adult Education on Automation Assembler EFZ

Leister Insight6 Aug 2021

Janine Kaufmann (39) and Alberto De Sousa (42) from Leister Technologies AG, Switzerland, were part of the second Automation Assembler EFZ pilot class for adult education in the Canton of Obwalden, Switzerland. Read below to learn about their experience in this interview.

Interviewer: Silke Landtwing, Corporate Communication Manager, Leister Switzerland

100% workload plus classes on Friday evenings

In contrast to a normal apprenticeship, Janine and Alberto attended school on Friday evenings. In addition, Alberto always had general education classes via Skype on Tuesdays. Both did the training part-time and maintained their normal workload at Leister. This meant that they did not have to take any financial losses i.e. reduced salaries.

Their commitment and effort have paid off since they have successfully passed the final exam. Alberto even with „honorable mention“ because he achieved a 5.4 as his final grade. (In Switzerland, this distinction is awarded for a grade of 5.3 or higher). Find out what Janine and Alberto say about their time as apprentices and whether they would recommend the apprenticeship to others in the interview below.

Janine, you have already successfully completed your vocational training as an EFZ florist. What made you decide to complete this second apprenticeship?

I had been thinking about training or further education for a while since I really like working at Leister and wanted to continue growing professionally. The only thing I didn't really know was the direction I wanted to go with my training since a „normal“ apprenticeship was out of the question for me, financially. At some point, my supervisor Markus Rohrer talked to me about training as an Automation Assembler EFZ (EFZ is a Federal Diploma of Vocational Education and Training in Switzerland) and gave me some information on it. After thinking about it for a while, I knew that this was the perfect apprenticeship for me. Luckily, I didn't have to reduce my workload because of it, and the proximity of my home to the classes at the Obwalden Vocational and Continuing Education Center (BWZ) made it ideal. In addition, I found the two-year training period optimal for my needs.

Alberto, this is the first EFZ that you have successfully completed. Was it an easy decision for you to say „yes“ to this additional training?

No, it wasn't so easy. I had an initial conversation with my supervisor Peter Christen, in which he made me the offer. That conversation was just the beginning. Peter motivated me to join in and gave me valuable tips along the way. After the conversation, I first needed some time to think things over. My wife has a job and we have two school-age children. So I was already thinking about whether it would be too much for me. Then came discussions with the whole family. It quickly became clear to all of them that I should not miss this opportunity under any circumstances, and they would support me. For Carla, my wife, this meant taking on part of my role as a father, in addition to her job, household and many other responsibilities. My brother and his wife took over the care of our parents. Only after I was sure that I would have enough support, I finally accepted the offer.

A question for both of you: What are the practical tasks of an Automation Assembler? Which tasks await you as an Automation Assembler here at Leister?

Janine: At Leister, I assemble electronic circuits, solder with the soldering machine or by hand, and partially test the circuits. In addition, I wire assemblies and controls that are needed for the automatic welders. Cable processing is also part of my activities. In addition, my daily schedule includes various measuring and testing tasks.

Alberto: As a whole, my tasks remain more or less the same. What has changed, however, are my perspectives. I now have new knowledge and skills that help me perform my activities even more successfully at Leister. Without wanting to reinvent the wheel, I question processes and strive for optimization. I really enjoy passing on my knowledge to my team, in effort to help everyone continue to grow.

What was your biggest challenge during these two years of training?

Janine: There were several challenges during the apprenticeship. The first was going back to school and learning again after such a long time away. Homeschooling also demanded a lot of discipline, as well as the midterm exam in the summer of 2020. Shortly after that, I had to start preparing my individual practical papers (IPA for short). I completed the IPA in February 2021 and it was the biggest challenge for me during the training period. After a short breather, I started studying for the written exams, which took place June 2021.

Alberto: Coordinating work, family, school and lots of studying was quite a challenge for me.

Who supported you in this?

Janine: I could always count on the support of my boyfriend and family. My supervisor, Markus Rohrer, was also very supportive, and I could always ask him questions if I didn't quite understand the tasks at school. For the IPA, I owe a lot to Andreas Molin. He was my subject supervisor and was always by my side.

Alberto: My list is long. I was supported by an excellent team, starting with my supervisor, Peter Christen, who has been my mentor from the very beginning. He motivated me during crucial times and gave me the self-confidence I needed.

My supervisor, Andreas Molin, also helped me a lot. In addition to everything else, he planned my IPA with Peter Christen and stood by me until I completed it.

I also had valuable support from Thomas Müller, head of vocational training at Maxon Motor AG, and his teammates Bruno Rütter, mechanical processing, and Hubert Ammann, wiring/testing, who were my contacts until the IPA.

Alberto: You are a family man and work 100%. Was it difficult to balance a family, job and apprenticeship?

Yes very much. I had far too little time for my family. I appreciate my wife even more so now for her unconditional support.

Janine: How did you feel about this extra effort?

The time commitment was higher for me in the first year than in the second. In the first year of the apprenticeship, I spent an average of six to eight hours a week studying for school. On top of that, there was the preparation time for the intermediate exam.

I took many half days and prepared for the exam at Maxon Motor AG in Sachseln, which. Also, the reduced work schedules that were temporarily in place due to the Coronavirus pandemic came in handy.

What are you particularly proud of?

Janine: That I successfully passed the Article 32 apprenticeship. It's a challenge to learn so much in such a short time and to pass the various exams.

Alberto: I am proud of my perseverance and the fact that I have achieved the Federal Diploma of Vocational Education and Training (EFZ) with such a good grade.

Do you recommend this education to others? If so, to whom and why?

Janine: I recommend this interesting course to anyone who is willing to invest two intensive years to further their professional development. The discussions with the other students were also very valuable. The only thing I missed in class was more practical examples.

Alberto: I recommend the training to anyone who is interested in electrical engineering and mechatronics, who works in this field or who would like to expand their knowledge and skills.

Assuming I am interested, who do I contact at Leister?

Janine and Alberto: Erika Windlin, Human Resources Manager and Head of Apprenticeships at the Leister Group.

Would you like to thank anyone?

Janine: First and foremost, I would like to thank everyone involved at Leister. I'm very thankful that I was given this opportunity to further my education and I don't take it for granted. I see it as a great sign of appreciation. A big thank you also to our teacher. It was not always easy for him to impart so much specialist knowledge in a short time. There are many other people I could mention so I don't want to forget anyone. I would like to thank all those that I was able to count on.

Alberto: I would like to thank everyone I mentioned before for their great support. Leister hired me after I completed my compulsory education in 1995. Now, almost 26 years later, I am very grateful to Leister for providing me with this opportunity. I would also like to thank all my colleagues for their help.

Also to you, Silke, thank you very much for patiently waiting for my answers for this interview. Time was somehow always too short (laughs). I hope I haven't forgotten anyone. If I did, I apologize in advance.

Many thanks to both of you for the interesting interview and the insight into two, exciting apprenticeship years. On behalf of Leister, congratulations on successfully completing this course.