With the number of filled manufacturing jobs in America plummeting, it’s time to take the search for a solution abroad.

Germany is known as an industrial giant of the western world. It is currently only surpassed by South Korea and China in terms of manufacturing. The country’s economy is composed of an impressive 23% manufacturing. The key to such figures is the promoting of apprenticeship in German schools throughout the entire country.

NPR host and correspondent, John Ydstie, supports this by stating that millions of young Germans are entering vocational training to pursue careers in high-quality manufacturing. With a reputation like this, Germany’s manufacturing industry has no trouble building their workforce within this sector. These quality production measures have also molded manufacturing into a key player within the country’s economy. We can trace Germany’s keen sense of the industry all the way back to World War II. Had it not been for this area of expertise, the country’s financial situation would have been catastrophic. Germany was able to gain ground by stabilizing its then smaller companies into the giants they are today. As we can see, manufacturing runs through Germany’s blood, and who better to learn from than the experts themselves?

Germany Guides Through Apprenticeships

Prompting German students into apprenticeship opportunities has exposed them to the prospective benefits of having a career in the manufacturing industry. With such experience under their belts, students can further decipher whether they want to pursue a college degree or focus on a trade. Hebmuller Aerospace offers opportunities like these. Axel Hebmuller, co-founder of Hebmuller Aerospace, states that the values of learning about a trade or practice before diving into a college degree is the most practical option. He emphasizes this especially for the students who are attracted to and interested in the trade. Hebmuller also shared that only 3 out of his 16 coworkers had a college degree when he first began working in the industry.

Henrik Tillman, a 19-year-old apprentice at Hebmuller Aerospace, benefits from the company’s apprenticeship program. He is able to gain valuable experience working as an industrial clerk, which allows him to pursue different careers from purchasing to marketing. Tillmann spends around three days a week at the company and then one day at a government-funded school.

With experience like this, Tillman can not only better assess what he wants to do with his future, but he can also gain valuable first-hand experience in the trade in which he is working. If America were to follow in Germany’s steps and promote apprenticeships, we could experience incredibly positive results in the field of manufacturing.

Criticism Regarding Apprenticeships in the United States 

The concept of apprenticeships in the US hasn’t come without skeptics. For example, Felix Rauner, a professor who is one of the world’s leading authorities in vocational education, believes that apprenticeships have not worked in the US because they haven’t been connected with jobs at real companies.  In addition to this, cultural views remain an obstacle to the popularity of these programs. Many American parents expect their children to go to college to obtain a career rather than being vocationally trained (to learn more about our stance on this, check out an earlier blog here). In Germany, on the other hand, vocational programs allow apprentices to advance to a Meister (or ‘Master’) status, which means that apprentice has become a master of that trade. This is a highly praised achievement and opens many doors for them within their chosen field.

America’s Potential

Apprenticeship presents many novel opportunities for growth that can save both the student and their parents, time, effort, and money. Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars pursuing a college degree, students could become a master of a craft in much less time, with much less debt. By training within an apprenticeship, similar to the those offered in Germany, one can master the trade before they are even “in” the career. Popularizing and growing these problems could be a key factor in solving the skills gap in America’s manufacturing industry.

How We Contribute

Here at Leading Edge Industrial, we are strong encouragers of pursuing trade school and/or vocational training for the manufacturing business – especially trades that work with CNC machining! In fact, we believe in the upcoming generation of workers so much that we’ve spent time compiling helpful guides for upcoming CNC Machinists to reference, including one of our favorites entitled “5 Tools Every CNC Beginner Needs in Their Toolkit!” Check it out here. This guide is meant to assist beginner CNC machinists who have a passion for manufacturing, and further encourage the idea of pursuing a career in manufacturing after high school. By starting with the right tools as a beginner, you are setting yourself up for great success in the industry! We hope that by providing upcoming professionals, hobbyists, and educators with materials such as these, we can help and encourage young apprentices and passionate CNC machinists who aim to be a valuable part of the thriving manufacturing industry in the United States.

Opening the Door

Focusing on Germany’s strategy can help America build a solid foundation in terms of manufacturing. America may be able to build up to companies like Germany’s, Schmittenberg, which has been going strong since 1932. However, more needs to be developed to effectively implement vocational programs and apprenticeships in the United States while overcoming cultural stigmas. Companies may be interested in apprenticeship programs because it can be a cost-effective method of training and integrating an expanded workforce. For companies who are willing to fund this, they can develop highly skilled workers over an estimated three years of training (one less than a standard college degree). Learning from Germany can boost the United States’ manufacturing economy, workforce, and skills trade. By looking into apprenticeships, students will also be exposed to eye-opening opportunities that could change their future career path for the better. They will benefit from learning more about themselves and what exactly they would like to pursue in their lives. Immersing oneself in a workplace allows for a head start both in the workplace, and in life.






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