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Implementing your own ideas and working in a meaningful way – this is what distinguishes vocational training at Beiersdorf

Jyn Knorr (21), Lea Eilers (23), Miguel Antonio Ramirez Gonzalez (30), and Yunus Emre Basaran (19) are four of the 104 current Beiersdorf apprentices. Their stories show how motivated they are during their apprenticeship and how they actively shape their learning journey through their own initiative and responsibility – and add value for Beiersdorf. This makes learning fun!

Click here for the interview with Jyn, Lea und Miguel
Click here for the interview with Yunus

Jyn Knorr (21); apprentice chemical laboratory technician
Lea Eilers (23); apprentice chemical laboratory technician
Miguel Antonio Ramirez Gonzalez (30); apprentice mechatronics fitter
Yunus Emre Basaran (19); apprentice digitalization manager

Interview 1: In conversation with budding chemical laboratory technician Jyn and Lea and mechatronics fitter apprentice Miguel.

Working independently and across different professions during your apprenticeship? Prospective chemical laboratory technician Jyn and Lea and mechatronics fitter apprentice Miguel have set an example and talk about their exciting project in this interview, for which they have received a lot of praise.

Jyn, you are a third-year apprentice and about to complete your apprenticeship as a chemical laboratory technician. Together with four other apprentices, you created and implemented a project on the topic of sustainability. Can you tell us more about it?

Jyn: I had the idea for this project during a stay abroad. I was in our lab in Mexico for three months as part of my apprenticeship – a really great time for me! The team was much smaller than in Hamburg and the working atmosphere was very informal. In Hamburg, I had already started a sustainability project together with Lea and another apprentice colleague. Our aim was to take a fresh look at the processes and procedures – and to make suggestions as to where waste could be saved or perhaps a more sustainable solution could be implemented. And then I saw something in Mexico that inspired me and that I could well imagine for Hamburg as well....

What exactly was that? And how did you go about the project?

Jyn: When making creams, it is important that the mass is homogenized. This means that a uniform mixture is produced from different, insoluble components by means of so-called homocents, which look similar to a meat grinder. The problem is that small amounts still drip out of the hoppers at the end. These are usually caught with some cellulose to keep everything clean. But in Mexico, they had specially made extraction trays that everything dripped into. Trash was avoided this way, the collection trays just need to be rinsed with water once a day. When I saw this, I wanted to implement the idea in Hamburg, too, and I talked to my trainer and showed him photos.

And what happened next?

Jyn: He thought it was a great idea and supported me in pushing the idea forward on my own responsibility, together in a small team of apprentices, and that’s how Lea and Miguel came into the picture.

Lea, how did you push the idea further?

Lea: When Jyn was back in Hamburg, we discussed the topic with our apprentice colleague Vivien and developed ideas for implementation. Of course, we asked the lab if there was any interest in the idea at all – and we promptly got an acceptance! Then we approached Miguel and asked him for support. As an apprentice mechatronics fitter, he was in a position to help us chemical laboratory technicians build a prototype...

Miguel, and you picked up the ball right away?

Miguel: Yes, of course! My instructor thought it was a great idea and I was also keen to help implement it. The design with all the dimensions was ready in a few days and then we started building the first prototype. I then presented it to my instructor and he gave me some tips on how to improve it. I found the mixture of independence and trust on the one hand and helpfulness and support on the other very motivating. It’s great to have this freedom and to be able to work in a really meaningful way – on a “real life project”, so to speak. And that already during the apprenticeship!

This prototype was created during the vocational training.

How was the feedback on your prototype?

Miguel: The colleagues were very appreciative and enthusiastic about the implementation – especially because it is so environmentally friendly and saves resources...

Lea: ...and after the first lab was happy with our solution, we presented our idea to other labs. The response was great. So far, six pull-out plates are already in use – and the demand is already so great that we almost can’t keep up with production. Nevertheless, we are still on the ball: We recently presented our solution at an internal forum and discussed it with other colleagues. The response was tremendous and we realized that we can dare to do something and are given the freedom to put our own ideas into practice – even as apprentices. And that’s not all: our work has even added value for many laboratories and, what’s more, we have worked together across professions! From my point of view, that’s a great thing!

Briefly back to the origin of the idea: Jyn, was your assignment abroad at Beiersdorf actually “normal”?

Jyn: Not necessarily “normal”. We do have the opportunity to go abroad for four weeks through a cooperation partner – but a longer assignment at a Beiersdorf affiliate has not been a fixed part of the apprenticeship so far. Nevertheless, I was very interested in gaining experience abroad in this way, and I was brave enough to ask about it. I then went to Mexico for three months in a kind of test project and the experience was unique! It was an incredible step forward for me to leave my own comfort zone. And I’m glad to have initiated a whole new process with it....

Lea: Jyn’s “test balloon” has actually set a precedent for us chemistry lab technicians. I’ll soon be going to the lab in the U.S. for three months, a fellow apprentice to India, and another apprentice to our lab in Brazil. What other company offers something like that? I was already abroad for two years as an au pair after graduating from high school, and I’m really looking forward to gaining some professional experience abroad.

Experience is good, but so is a “fresh look”". Would you agree with that?

Lea: That’s how it is – and I can only recommend that to all future apprentices: Go to work with your eyes open and always address ideas. As part of our apprenticeship, for example, we have taken up the issue of sustainability, and there are always ways in which we can optimize this. In the lab, for example, we often use pipettes made of plastic – but pipettes made of glass can be reused and save waste. Through our project, we have tried to bring about a rethink in the teams, because although glass pipettes are intrinsically more expensive, the reusability makes it worthwhile in terms of price. Glass pipettes are somewhat less convenient to handle, but the added value in terms of sustainability is there and this argument was convincing!

Let’s move on from the topic of sustainability to the topic of diversity. How do you experience this at Beiersdorf? And specifically in your vocational training team?

Miguel: Diversity plays a big role in every respect – and that’s a good thing! I myself, for example, am not the “classic” apprentice who started the apprenticeship straight out of school. I am already 30 years old and first trained as a car mechanic in my home country of El Salvador. I came to Germany later to study mechanical engineering, but realized that it wasn’t for me. I think it’s great that Beiersdorf gives people with “different” backgrounds a chance. And I also have the feeling that this is exactly what is received and valued. It’s all about personal motivation and drive – and working together in a strong, diverse team. A team to which I really like to belong!

Thank you very much for the interview!


Interview 2: In conversation with Yunus (apprentice digitalization manager)

Getting the next generation excited about IT topics? That was the goal of Yunus (apprentice digitalization manager) and his apprentice colleagues on this year’s Future Day. In the interview, he talks about how he designed and implemented a special workshop for 60 kids as a team.

At the end of April, Beiersdorf opened its doors for “Future Day” (formerly “Girls’ and Boys’ Day”). Around 60 children and young people experienced an exciting program, to which you as an apprentice also contributed, Yunus. Can you tell us more about it?

Yunus: Sure, I’d be happy to! Let’s talk briefly about the idea of Future Day: We wanted to give kids the opportunity to learn about future occupations far removed from outdated role models and gender stereotypes – and many of us apprentices played an active role in this. I myself am currently training to become digitalization manager, so my trainer suggested that we introduce the children to programming in a workshop. Together with five apprentice colleagues, including three IT specialists, we then independently developed the concept and implemented the workshop.

Just try it out: The children and young people learned to program a small game on Future Day. They received support from six Beiersdorf apprentices.

And the children had no experience at all?

Yunus: Yes, that’s true for most of them! We wanted to show the kids how easy it is to learn a programming language. And on this basis, we designed a workshop that lasted about an hour and a half. The kids were to try out the Scratch programming language for themselves.

We explained a few things in advance, looked over their shoulders during the first programming exercises and, of course, always helped in between. Some kids who were already familiar with Scratch even programmed more extensive games in the meantime – that was very exciting to see.

What feedback did you get? And what did you learn for yourselves?

Yunus: There was a huge amount of interest and commitment – even though some of the children had a lot of respect at the beginning. For many of them, IT was a foreign field, and most of them had never had any contact with it before. In the end, however, the feedback was great – but it also showed us that there are many prejudices. For example, one girl told me that she had expected a bunch of nerds to be the workshop presenters, but that we were really cool and “normal”. And that IT wasn’t so bad. This shows how important education is and that such workshops can actually influence career choices. So it’s all the more great that we were able to set the first impulses here.

And independent project management?

Yunus: The freedom and independence we had in preparing the workshop was really motivating. It was great fun to be at the helm ourselves and to do something that, in the best case, has an effect – namely, that we arouse interest in apprenticeship in the IT sector. I also think it’s great that we have a lot of freedom to help shape our apprenticeship. For example, every now and then we have project weeks in which self-determined work is very much encouraged. We decide for ourselves what we want to do, and we’ve already built a miniature NIVEA can factory with Fischertechnik, for example. Or we ordered drones that we assembled, programmed and sent into the air ourselves.

What advice would you give to other people who would like to do an apprenticeship at Beiersdorf?

Yunus: The most important tip first: Do it! The “feel-good factor” is very high at Beiersdorf, you learn a lot, and the opportunities are enormous. And otherwise: Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions. Get involved and take the opportunity to implement your ideas – because that’s definitely possible here! For anyone who wants to combine business with IT, I can only recommend the apprenticeship in digitalization management. It combines two different disciplines and that’s exactly what makes it so appealing to me!

Yunus, thank you very much for the interview!

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