From South Africa to Hamburg for dual studies

“Have the courage to step outside of your comfort zone – it might just be worth it.”

Dual Study programme (Industrial engineering and management) in cooperation with the Nordakademie in Elmshorn, Hamburg, Germany.

Why did you decide to do this apprenticeship in Germany?

Thomas: I have always been interested in merging my passion for engineering with the commerce side of a business. Since I was already fluent in German, I thought this apprenticeship complimented this goal well.

What is a dual apprentice programme?

Thomas: A dual apprentice programme is a study model that combines theory at a technical college and work experience at a partner company. Each semester, we spend ten weeks studying at Nordakademie, and for a further 13 weeks, we work at the partner company. This is an excellent way of translating what we have learnt in the classroom into the real work environment. Lastly, the partner company covers the tuition fees and pays an allowance. After the completion of the programme, I will hold a Bachelor of Science degree.

How did you prepare yourself and how did the application process go?

Thomas: As preparation, I first completed my school leaving certificate. Since there are several good offers from different institutions and organizations, I had to be very precise in what I was looking for. I sent several applications to various organizations, which required a lot of time. The apprenticeship was advertised through a job portal to which I had to submit a curriculum vitae, a letter of motivation and a school leaving certificate. Thereafter, the organization conducted an online interview, which was followed by an invitation to travel to Hamburg. During the visit, I had the opportunity to see if it was a good match and to get a glimpse of what a normal working day could look like.

What personal and professional requirements do you think are important for this occupation?

Thomas: It is important that you are interested in various facets related to engineering and commerce. You should also be an individual who displays good analytical skills and enjoys coordinating and organizing processes. A structured and independent way of working is important as you are often part of a team that works on large scale projects. You should have a good knowledge of the German language. English and any further languages are also useful, especially when dealing with international clients.

What do you learn at the academy and what do you learn at the company?

Thomas: Firstly, the basics of numerous engineering and commerce subjects are taught. This covers a wide spectrum of topics that allow you to understand and design technical processes as well as analyze business processes and structures. This gives one the basis to make corporate decisions in all functional areas. Some of the modules covered are mechanical engineering, business administration, electrotechnology, and software development. At the organization, I rotate between different departments so that I can apply what I have learnt and gather experience in the various departments as well as get an overview of how they function together.

What advice do you have for South Africans who are interested in an apprenticeship?

Thomas: Start with the application process as soon as possible so that you can choose the apprenticeship that best resonates with your career aspirations. Make sure that your curriculum vitae shows what you can offer the company and feel free to be creative by highlighting your unique selling points. If you do not hear from the company, follow up and ask for feedback.

What tasks are you responsible for today?

Thomas: From the very early stages of the apprenticeship, we receive various tasks to ensure continuous learning. For example, I am in the sales department where I am responsible for acquiring new customers, establishing communication and coordinating customer projects. I also do tasks related to software development and product design.

Which tasks do you enjoy the most and why?

Thomas: I particularly enjoy working in the sales department because I can apply most of the theory that I have already learnt at the Nordakademie. Furthermore, by being able to assist and manage big projects, I am still able to work closely with the other departments. This allows me to experience the different ways of thinking and learn from my colleagues. The best part is that no day is the same as the other.

And after the training? What are your career goals?

Thomas: After the training, I hope to continue working at the organization where I am. I would like to work towards a management position where I can work on interdepartmental projects. I would also like to further develop myself professionally and personally.

This interview was conducted by Sinenhlanhla Buthelezi. Sinenhlanha Buthelezi studies International Media Studies at the Deutsche Welle Akademie and currently works there for the media development department.

Please find the original interview here