For Melanie Stölting and Philip Globisch, a book has long since been more than just a few bound pages. For both of them, it is a symbol of the expertise they have acquired at Mohn Media. For the past one-and-a-half years, both of them have been completing their apprenticeships at the Gütersloh-based company, which is one of the best apprenticeship providers in Germany. By now, they have already dealt with a few printing orders without anyone’s help; in future, they will have to handle even more of these independently if they want to be able to “enjoy” the traditional cold shower as they celebrate the successful completion of their apprenticeship.
When Melanie and Philip walk across the extensive Mohn Media grounds, they can sometimes still hardly believe their luck. Huge printing machines, some of them as big as a block of flats, clatter behind the walls of the large print rooms. Every second, printed pages come shooting out of the machines and onto the complex production lines for further processing. Time and again, either Melanie or Philip are allowed to control and manage the big printing machines, which makes them feel like lion tamers in a circus. They are already able to perform many of their jobs almost to perfection; however, they still need a helping hand from time to time. Melanie hopes to become a fully qualified print media finishing technologist; Philip is completing an apprenticeship as a print media technologist. When they tell their friends about their apprenticeships and the printing machines that weigh several tons, many of them are often astonished. Most have no idea how the magazines or brochures they often casually hold in their hands are produced. Especially young people looking for an apprenticeship that suits them can rarely imagine what a print technologist actually does. Until a few years ago, Philip was one of them.
The speed master
Shortly before he was about to leave school, two apprentices from Mohn Media visited his vocational education college. He had always been interested in technology and was wondering whether to apply for a machine operator apprenticeship. When the two apprentices talked about the huge printing machines, he immediately sat up and took notice. The biggest machine at the Gütersloh printing house costs around 20 million euros. If you can operate that, you can reliably produce thousands of print products. Philip became interested in the job. Shortly after the presentation by the apprentices, he decided to submit an application to Mohn Media. Only a year later, he was already face to face with the colossal machine. He made it. His training supervisor Sergej Brendler told him more about the machine; he learned how to operate it and what’s important when printing. Soon, he was allowed to handle some first print jobs by himself. As soon as a new order comes in, the printing machine starts to produce it at a top speed of 60 km/h. Philip is fascinated by the pace. In his leisure time, he keeps on trying to beat his personal record on his racing bike. On his tours, he sometimes thinks of the printing machines and imagines himself catching up with them, pedal push by pedal push. He is sure that the job he has decided to learn is perfect for him. Just like Melanie.
I was already allowed to work independently in the first week of my apprenticeship. That was a great experience for me and motivated me even further.
The team player
Her eyes sparkle as soon as she talks about her apprenticeship. “I just love this company,” she says, laughing. For Melanie, Mohn Media has become like a second family that has given her an amazing opportunity which she makes good use of every day. After leaving school, she had initially decided to study industrial engineering and management/mechanical engineering. She was forced to drop out of university for personal reasons, and on the spur of the moment, she registered with a temping agency. She was posted to Mohn Media only a few days later – and loved it. The team made her feel very welcome; someone was always happy to help if she had a question. She soon knew: I want to stay here. Melanie didn’t have to wait too long before the Gütersloh-based company offered her an apprenticeship. Just like Philip, she was allowed to work independently only a short while later and felt like she was able to make a proper contribution. She learned how to operate the computer-aided machines correctly, and how to monitor the automated series production as well as the other production steps. It is important to her to feel comfortable in her job. She likes to talk about the friendly and family-like atmosphere at work; a fact that Ariane Probeck, Manager Human Resources, also noticed. It gave her an idea.
I am delighted that I can complete my apprenticeship with Mohn Media. The corporate culture is simply brilliant; the atmosphere at work is friendly and family-like.
Ariane Probeck belongs to a team in the human resource department that looks after the recruitment of apprentices and their induction into the company. With events or job fair presentations, the team also tries to raise awareness for the different ways to join Mohn Media and to introduce the company to school leavers. Potential young applicants often have no idea what the two jobs that Melanie and Philip are training for actually entail. To give them a first impression of the apprenticeship, they therefore often speak directly with the interested students at events to give them an insight into their working environment. As an apprenticeship ambassador, Melanie also often visits schools and talks about her experiences. Time and again, she realises how little the students actually know about print products like their own text books. Melanie therefore often tears a book apart and explains its individual components and how these are produced in Gütersloh. This direct contact between the apprentices and the potential candidates is a worthwhile exercise: Ariane Probeck often finds new applications on her desk after they have visited schools or job fairs. In the subsequent interviews, the candidates frequently mention that they became interested in applying because apprentices like Melanie or Philip managed to share their passion for the job. For Ariane Probeck, this is a sure sign that she and her team are going in the right direction.
However, because it is sometimes difficult to explain to the young people even face to face what printing means and what the machines that are needed look like these days, Mohn Media has been holding an “Apprenticeship Day” on its premises every two years since 2013. Every fifteen minutes, the young candidates and their parents can join a one-hour guided tour through the huge print rooms. The first “Apprenticeship Day” attracted 900 visitors – and the information event is still visited by several hundred interested students to this day. For Ariane Probeck and her colleagues, it entails a lot of work. A ten-strong project team that consists of human resource department staff and employees that work in the respective apprenticeship areas develops an interesting schedule beforehand, designs flyers and posters, and places advertisements in the regional press. On the day itself, apprentices like Melanie and Philip answer the visitors’ questions. They are supported by their training supervisors, because Sergej Brendler also knows what it feels like to take the first steps in a company.
We used to publish a vacancy ad in the regional paper. Nowadays, we have the internet. This makes it possible to use much more comprehensive measures and methods to show the young people what Mohn Media has to offer and how we will support them individually.
Giving your all
Sergej Brendler himself also started with the Gütersloh-based company as a web offset printer apprentice back in 2005. After qualifying, he completed further training courses and finally decided to train as a training supervisor. He knows what the apprentices are worried or uncertain about on their first day; he can empathise with them and is therefore even better able to give them tips. It is important to him to make his job better known at events like “Apprenticeship Day”. He himself became interested in the job of printer through acquaintances. Sometimes, he has to smile as he stands in the extensive print rooms. The training supervisor has often had to dispel the illusion that he spends all day in front of a small office printer, rather than in front of machines that are as tall as a house, although he can now operate these as effortlessly as if they were ordinary office printers. When he first meets potential apprentices, Sergej Brendler makes sure that they are just as motivated and willing to learn as Melanie and Philip. Despite the fact that he maintains a rather informal relationship with his apprentices, he still expects them to be able to work fast and independently without any mishaps. He likes to say that Mohn Media offers young people exceptionally good vocational training that also includes an in-house vocational college and being given insights into other jobs in the company, for example those in the pre-press department or in industrial machinery maintenance. He reckons those are some of the reasons why Mohn Media has been voted one of Germany’s 500 best companies to offer apprenticeships. Sergej Brendler wants to support his young charges as best he can to ensure that they, too, will be doused with cold water at the end of their training, just like he once was.
I also completed an apprenticeship with Mohn Media. It fills me with pride that I can now support the apprentices all the way to their final exams and can follow their subsequent careers in the company.
Thrown into cold water
Although Melanie and Philip are only halfway through their apprenticeship with the company, their goal is clear: in the summer of next year, both of them want to be given a cold shower by their training supervisors. This may sound odd but is actually an established tradition at Mohn Media: every year, the fact that the apprentices have qualified and are now officially journeymen and -women is celebrated with a “baptism by cold water” called the Gautschfest. In mediaeval times, this celebratory act, where the former apprentice was thrown into a wooden vat filled with cold water, represented the symbolic washing away of the dust and dirt of the apprenticeship. For the past twenty years or so, the Mohn Media apprentices have also “enjoyed” this old tradition. A pool is installed in the middle of the car park, and the apprentices are enthusiastically thrown into this pool – after they have already been doused with water several times. This wet and jolly occasion is not only attended by the apprentices, the training supervisors and the company managers but also by the families of the freshly “baptised” journeymen and -women; because ultimately, completing an apprenticeship with Mohn Media also always means writing a little bit of family history.
Value of the printing machine operated by Melanie and Philip: approx. 20 million euros
Duration of print media technologist/print media finishing technologist apprenticeship: three years
Number of apprenticeship vacancies with Mohn Media every year: 30–35
Number of officially accredited qualifications offered by Mohn Media: 6
Year when the next “Apprenticeship Day” will be held: 2021 (scheduled)