Six trainees start their professional careers at Paul Köster GmbH

07. Aug 2020

Luca Meier (19), a prospective precision machinist, on his first day at work, his choice of employer, and his transition year after graduating from high school

Medebach. When August approaches, the excitement ramps up. At least it does for many high school graduates who sooner or later decide to pursue vocational training. For these young people, a completely new phase in their lives begins once August rolls around: their careers get underway. Manuel Berkenkopf, Luca Meier, Gabriele Montagnino, Marvin Rudas, Joanna Ali Hammadeh and Luca Dollberg - a group of four prospective precision machinists, a technical product designer, and a work-study student - celebrated the start of their professional careers on August 3. The cause for celebration lay in the fact that the first day of work at the Medebach-based mechanical engineering company is arranged in a rather exceptional way. What’s exceptional isn’t just the concept for getting the apprenticeship off on the right foot: so too is the path involved in going from being a school student to a career entrant. Trainee Luca Meier represents a new generation: after all, pursuing an apprenticeship directly after leaving school is no longer the typical career path. Luca Meier, for example, decided that in order to get his bearings after graduating from high school in 2019, he would devote a transitional year to completing a number of internships. Next came his decision to sign his apprenticeship contract with Paul Köster GmbH. Like his colleagues in the trainee team, he is now entering the first year of his apprenticeship with plenty of motivation - especially since the first day, August 3, offered some surprising moments.

Getting familiar with different job profiles and company sizes

“After graduating from high school, it was important to me to avoid making an immediate decision on my career. I wanted to get my bearings in peace and quiet, so that I could then make an informed decision,” says Luca Meier. But this transition year was by no means a sabbatical. He worked in various companies, got a taste of different professional fields, and also earned the money he needed for a planned three-month stay in Australia. In the summer of 2019, his path also led him to a three-month stint with a Medebach-based outfit. More specifically: the factory halls of the internationally active mechanical engineering company Paul Köster GmbH. It made quite the impression on him. “I was impressed by the size of the company and how its work processes are structured in the various divisions. This matched my personal approach to getting work done. It’s why I decided to do an apprenticeship as a precision machinist with Paul Köster,” highlights the 19-year-old.

This decision is one that also pleases Hildegard Köster, Head of Human Resources, in times of skilled worker and trainee shortages: “A lot has changed in recent years. Many find it difficult to make a decision about a skilled occupation one year before leaving school, and the opportunities for longer orientation-style placements while still in school are too few and far between. We find this kind of ‘familiarization placement’ very valuable for both parties and are pleased about every inquiry we receive.” The Medebach-based company deliberately focuses on apprenticeships that are rooted in practice and does not include a separate training workshop.“ Our trainees are directly integrated into the respective project-related practice from day one. They learn to work on the relevant product in a solution-oriented and responsible manner. This is also our way of charting the course of the company through the early training of potential future employees. The positive experiences after the apprenticeship and the 100% acceptance rate show that this is a very sensible way to do things,” emphasizes Hildegard Köster.

A day of surprises and aha moments

The first day was exciting for Luca Meier as well: How will he get on with the other trainees? What can he expect on the first day? Will he make a good impression? These questions were shooting through Luca Meier’s mind. “In advance, we were given a schedule for the first day and basic information about the company. After the introductions of the participants were through, the nervous excitement was gone. We were warmly welcomed, introduced ourselves to each other, and got to know our apprenticeship mentors,” recalls a satisfied Luca Meier. The mentors are an important part of the apprenticeship because they provide the new trainees with advice and practical support. Especially early on, they help them find their bearings and settle in quickly.

The first day also includes a tour of all three plants, safety training, important documents and information about the next three years, as well as contact details for relevant in-house personnel. “The support is really good. We received a ready-made folder with all the information we need to start our careers and can file our documents such as pay slips and other important items directly in them. This helps a lot at the beginning,” continues Luca Meier, who was not only impressed by the size of the company and its almost 300 employees, but also by the data protection training that came complete with several aha moments. “You always hear about the effort involved in data protection, but it’s amazing to learn what’s behind it all,” he concludes.

The much-deserved lunch break had another surprise in store: The path didn’t lead to the cafeteria, but instead, together with the apprenticeship mentors, to the locally loved snack bar known as “Winnie’s Treff” in the middle of Medebach. “It’s a great tip and a good alternative to the company’s own cafeteria,” says Luca Meier, who is not directly from Medebach. “We think it’s important that our new colleagues feel comfortable and welcome at the company. This also includes knowing where to get the best curry sausage in Medebach,” says Hildegard Köster.

And what about the coronavirus? On this day, attention wasn’t focused on the pandemic. The distance and hygiene regulations are observed without any problems in the company and the trainees thus started their new and exciting chapter in a normal fashion.

Hildegard Köster and Frank Schmiedeler welcomed the new trainees and students. From left: Luca Dollberg, Manuel Berkenkopf, Luca Meier, Joanna Ali Hammadeh, Marvin Rudas, Hildegard Köster, Gabriele Montagnino, Frank Schmiedeler
Luca Meier