Wörwag: Der Nachwuchs versteht sich auch im Dunkeln blendend. Shining lights

Shining lights

If darkness ever descends on Wörwag’s apprentices, that can only mean they’re enjoying a special team event arranged by the training department. A round of black-light miniature golf shows that these young people get along superbly, even in the dark.

Kathrin Wickardt takes aim at hole 7. She steadies the fluorescent green ball, cocks her club, and connects with a little too much force. The ball flies over the hole. She tries again, with less power. The ball rolls over two hills and comes to a stop shortly before the hole. A gentle tap, and it drops in. “Three!” she calls out and enters the number on her chart.

Her black T-shirt sports a big red luminous “T.” This 29-year-old will soon be taking her final exam as a coatings lab technical assistant. The Wörwag apprentices are playing miniature golf tonight. Miniature golf in black light, to be precise.

Upon entering the golf hall a short walk from Wörwag’s main factory, you’ll first have to grope your way forward in the dark – literally. The 18 holes look like islands of shining light. Their contours are marked with fluorescent paint, which has also been used to turn the entire hall into a shimmering underwater world with fish, crustaceans, and all manner of aquatic plants on the walls.

A 3D effect is added by the colorful glasses handed out at the reception desk. Measuring around 600 square meters (6,458 square feet), this miniature golf facility opened its doors around a year ago. The adjacent room is for pit-pat, a version of miniature golf played on billiard tables, also in black light. Not just the visuals but also the bass beat emanating from the loudspeakers in the ceiling have turned the hall into a party zone. The apprentices are enjoying themselves.

Die Wörwag-Azubis setzen ihr Motto farbenfroh in Szene.

Fifteen of the company’s 26 apprentices are here today. It was hard to find a date that would accommodate all of their schedules. The first-year group is sitting in a classroom at the trade school right now.

But they will be able to go on the next team outing. Wörwag attaches importance to events like this. In addition to being fun, they promote a sense of team spirit. Teamwork is not just a buzzword at the company, but is actively embraced. A glance into the golf hall is enough to see that future coatings lab technicians are engaging with future chemical technicians and production assistants. There’s no sign of detachment or reserve.

In addition to technical skills, training director Tanja Nebroj (48) also emphasizes qualities like conscientiousness, independence, interest, and enthusiasm. “And it’s very important that they get along well with each other,” she says. She herself trained as a chemistry lab technician and has been with Wörwag for 16 years now. Good working relations are schooled from the start.

Apprenticeship programs begin with an introductory week. “During these five days the newcomers get to know the company and their individual work stations,” says Nebroj.

“And we spend one full day climbing at a high-rope garden – which really brings people together.” The approach works, as can be seen by the fact that the apprentices also get together during their time off. And they meet for regular evenings out. When at work, Tanja – who is on a first-name basis with her charges – is the first contact partner for any questions about the program or possible concerns. She meets the young people on an equal footing. And they respond with a high level of trust.

„We also get together in our spare time“

Cedric Steffan, Chemikant

Wörwag Azubi 2

„The program offers all sorts of great things!“

Kathrin Wickardt

Wörwag Azubi 3

„The good support was a crucial factor in my decision.“

Arefe Kibaroglu, Lacklaborantin

Today they want to make a statement. “When we knew that we’d be playing miniature golf, we got some green, yellow, red, and orange neon tape and put letters on our black T-shirts,” says Wickardt.

She points to the “T” on her own shirt. And then she motions for the others to stand in a line. The neon letters spell the word TEAMPLAYER. That is the motto not only of the day but also of the entire apprenticeship program.

Back in the game, Marco Sonder and Lukas Mischkulnik confer on how best to hole out with a single stroke at hole 16.

The two up-and-coming coatings lab technicians inspect the path along which the ball will have to travel. A steep incline is followed by a zig-zag pattern reminiscent of a marble track, and then a straight stretch to the hole. “Hit it precisely in the middle with just the right touch,” suggests Sonder. Mischkulnik takes this advice to heart and sinks the ball on his first try. “Cool shot,” is heard from the neighboring hole.

Denis Huduti (22) is impressed. He pushes a pair of orange 3D glasses up onto his head. Now in his second year as a chemical production assistant, he has always been interested in chemistry. Later he wants to join the chemical technician program. It has higher entry requirements, and its members may not miss more than ten days a year. He has good chances of being accepted.

„We take on about two thirds of our apprentices offering an open-ended contract“

He also has good chances of full-time employment. “We take on about two thirds of our apprentices offering an open-ended contract,” says Nebroj.

But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing more to learn. The company encourages its employees to pursue further education.

Those who want to qualify as a master technician (Meister) alongside their job, for example, can receive financial support from the company.

But today’s miniature golf outing is not about professional achievements. Its focus is on building team spirit. And that’s why its schedule includes having dinner together later in the evening.

„Young people respond when you show interest in them.“

Wörwag Ausbildungsleiterin Tanja Nebroj

Tanja Nebroj leads the training department at Wörwag since 2008.

Ms. Nebroj, the jobs that Wörwag trains its apprentices for are not the most popular ones. Is it hard to find interested candidates?

Yes, it is. Our jobs are not widely known among high school graduates. And chemistry is not a favorite subject anyway. But all fields of work at our company are very exciting. To spread the word, we do various types of outreach, including working together with schools where we present our training opportunities at regular intervals. When the students realize how varied the work of a chemistry technician is, for example, they quickly become interested. So thus far we’ve been able to accept eight candidates a year.

A varied program awaits them, with an introductory week that includes climbing and other team activities. And there seems to be a priority on making sure people are happy.

That’s right. If people enjoy good relationships with each other, they’ll also work well together. Our apprentices know the premises quite well and have an impressive network. Our training program promotes interpersonal as well as technical skills. And everyone benefits from that.

The apprentices would say you’re an important part of the program’s success!

They’re just trying to flatter me. No, jokes aside, I try to set a good example, and I’m committed to and enthusiastic about my job. Young people respond when you show interest in them. I’m there when they need me, but I also let them know in no uncertain terms if things are not right. The apprentices know where they stand with me and I’ll tell them exactly what is expected.

Training programs at Wörwag

? Coatings lab technical assistant

They test new paints to confirm the desired features, evaluate measurement data online, and investigate the reasons for any problems. As the job title suggests, they work in a lab, where they develop coating substances with new technical properties and improve the environmental compatibility of our products.

⚗️ Chemical engineering assistant

They work at the interface of lab and production. They know the raw materials, work processes, and production systems. They also test the quality of our paints. At the end of their program, they have acquired a wide range of knowledge and skills.

Chemical production assistant

Production assistants are involved throughout our paint creation processes. They have to know the raw materials and the work processes and how to operate the machinery. Quality control
is another important task, and the assistants help to make sure that paint properties remain constant over the entire course of production.

? Interested in a training program? Apply now!

By: Thorsten Schönfeld

Photos by: Toby Binder