Skip Johnson is the head of the apprenticeship program at STIHL Incorporated. He is very familiar with the dual vocational training and academic study system, having completed a German-American toolmaker apprenticeship himself back in 1988.
What makes the dual vocational training and academic study system practiced in Germany so appealing for STIHL Incorporated?
Skip Johnson The dual training system is appealing for several reasons, especially the fact that the training and instruction, both in the classroom and hands-on, are constantly being revised to keep up with advances in technology. The projects people are asked to complete in school and in practice change almost every year. Another advantage is that our apprentices get the latest training on the most recent machines available. This method also gives all our entry-level employees the same basic training, so they have a shared foundation they can build on.
When did STIHL Incorporated start offering this kind of training, and what kind of apprenticeships are available to young people in Virginia Beach?
Skip Johnson STIHL Incorporated created an apprenticeship program geared heavily toward manual processing and tool construction back in 1985. About 15 years ago, we started focusing on the German dual training system. When we did that, we also started concentrating not only on the existing programs in machining and tool and mold construction, but also on electromechanical maintenance, which has now evolved into mechatronics. We’ve also introduced another four apprenticeship tracks over the past 15 years. That means we offer six registered apprenticeship tracks in all: mechatronics engineer, tool- maker, quality lab technician, CNC machinist, plastics process engineer and plastics technician.
Does this range of training options make STIHL Incorporated a rarity among American companies, and if so, do you see that as a competitive advantage?
Skip Johnson Most companies don’t offer a range of training options like this. Our selection process is unusual, and it’s also very strict. But because of our good reputation as an employer and our working relationships with the local schools and communities, we can choose from the best talent available.