USAG Ansbach welcomes first-ever host-nation apprentices

U.S. Army photo

ANSBACH, Germany (Sept. 2, 2022) – Each year on Sept. 1, thousands of recent school graduates in Germany start their professional career by entering a “Duale Ausbildung,” dual vocational training program.

U.S. Army Garrison (USAG) Ansbach is hosting two host-nation school graduates to undergo dual vocational training program at the garrison for the first time in known history.

Mara Klijakovic-Gaspic, age 17 from Fürth, and Erik Heller, age 18 from Lichtenau, start their training, which loosely translates to apprenticeship, as office management specialists. They will rotate through 11 different garrison offices as they receive training in various areas such as Human Resources, Department of Public Works and Resource Management during the next three years.

“I chose this because I already had jobs at different at normal German companies and I learned about this job opportunity and chose this because I found it much more interesting than standard job in a usual company,” said Heller. “I really love the environment here, the American feel. I’m really interested in the English language and I lived in the USA for three years. I thought this would be a good middle way between Germany and the USA.”

The dual vocational training system is characterized by hands-on training at the workplace, supplemented by vocational schooling. Over a duration of 36 months, USAG Ansbach will provide the trainees, called Auszubildende, or Azubis in German, on-the-job training three to four days per week, while the German Berufsschule, the vocational school, takes care of the theoretical academic lectures on one to two days a week and complements the in-company training.

Uwe Wagner, the workforce development specialist for the garrison, led the effort to introduce the Azubi program, along with Paulina Bradley, command executive assistant and German state-certified trainer. After obtaining the necessary registration with the Chamber of Commerce (IHK), USAG Ansbach designated mentors.

“The great advantage of this system is that the Azubis are integrated in the daily work processes of a company from the first day of training. They learn their trade from mentors within the garrison from the bottom up,” said Bradley. “These mentors are experienced, respected employees, who teach and guide and support the Azubis, for them to become valuable members of the workforce.”

Daniela Walton, administrative officer for the Department of Public Works (DPW), sees opportunities for the two young colleagues, “Our workforce is aging dramatically. The baby boomer generation will retire in the next few years and it is becoming very difficult to recruit new employees in the strained German labor market.”

The mentors will assess the Azubis at the end of each training period for learning ability and comprehension, motivation and perseverance, personal initiative and pace of learning, quality of work, reliability, communication skills, the ability to handle conflict and a few more criteria.

At vocational school, the Azubis will acquire further professional skills in the area of business management, computer applications, accounting and alike. They will receive grade reports at the end of each school year.

Critical, but often disliked by the Azubis, is a reporting tool, called “Berichtsheft”. Azubis have to keep this weekly journal, documenting their weekly activities and describing what they have learned.

“If I like it here I want to stay here,” said Klijakovic-Gaspic when asked about what she hopes to get out of the program. “I’m positive is going to like that. I really hope to be in service to somewhere where it is fun working and where I can work with people and help with whatever it shall be.”

About the dual training system in Germany:

Dual vocational training with the combination of in-company on-the-job training and vocational schooling was not the result of conscious planning. For a long time, on-the-job teaching and vocational schooling were developed independently of each other. The dual principle of vocational training was first laid down in the Gewerbeverordnungs-novelle” (Trade Regulation Amendment) of 1897. In 1923, the term “vocational school” was introduced in Prussia. The term “dual system” of vocational training was not coined until 1964 by the German Committee for Education and Training. It drew up an “Expert Report on the Vocational Training and School System.” In 1969, the Vocational Training Act provided decisive impetus for dual vocational training.

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