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Bühler vocational training celebrates its centenary

Uzwil, June 15, 2015 – Exactly 100 years ago, Bühler decided to rely on sound vocational training as the basis for its future business success. Today, the company still continuously and far-sightedly takes account of ongoing changes within the organization, the economy, education, and society at large. On June 13, Bühler celebrated this anniversary in Uzwil together with some 2,000 guests. The celebrations looked behind the scenes and forward into the future toward the challenges that the dual vocational training system is facing.

In May 1915, Albert Bürkler was the first person to start an apprenticehip at Bühler, in his particular case as a metalworker. Since then, some 7,500 young men and women have completed their vocational training at Bühler. About 1,000 of them are currently employed in the organization. Every year, more than two thirds of all apprenticeship-leavers trained in Switzerland start their professional careers with Bühler. Reason enough to celebrate!

Over 2,000 interested persons, including employees and their families as well as former apprentices, gathered in the ice rink in Uzwil, to attend the “Bühler Vocational Training Day”. They were welcomed by the Bühler factory band, which is also celebrating its centenary this year. Impressions from times bygone took the visitors on a trip through the past of Bühler vocational training. A smith demonstrated how metal used to be processed in the old artisanal way. Today, this job is done by machinery, and what used to be smiths are now systems and apparatus engineers. Of today’s total of 300 Swiss Bühler apprentices, more than 60 are trained in this vocation.

The public was also familiarized with the other nine vocational training disciplines at Bühler, both by the apprentices themselves and their instructors. Visitors learned first-hand about the trend-setting technologies that apprentices will work with. For example, future automation specialists will increasingly concern themselves with the control of machinery by remote systems. Welding can currently be learned on a virtual basis by computer without causing any emissions. The guests also had the occasion to play the role of a mechanical designer, viewing a production plant virtually through 3D glasses.

From the virtual world, the visitors who had gathered in the Uzwil ice rink went on to the next marked feature of Bühler vocational training: its global scope. In 2008, Bühler started internationalizing vocational training, first delegating apprentices for two months to China. Today, one in four final-year apprentices spends two to six months at Bühler companies in India, China, Brazil, the United Kingdom, South Africa, or the United States. This extended stay abroad is made possible by Bühler ClassUnlimited™ – a remote classroom concept developed in collaboration with the Vocational and Continuing Education Center of Wil-Uzwil. In essence, ClassUnlimited™ means the following: Vocational school instructors teach their classes in Uzwil. Some of the students sit as usual in front of him in the classroom, whereas the Bühler apprentices are linked up by video conference from remote Bühler locations. In 2014, Bühler was honored with the Leonardo European Corporate Learning Award for this unique training concept.

Josef Widmer, Deputy Director of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation, enthused during the anniversary celebrations: “The dual vocational training system of Switzerland is a success model and at the same time an export hit. Bühler has been successfully living this model for one hundred years. The training opportunities offered by Bühler are practice-oriented, innovative, and far-sighted and repeatedly maximize the benefits of vocational training for all stakeholders – individuals, business, and society.”

Also Stefan Kölliker, Member of the Board of Governors of St.Gallen and President of the Education Department, congratulated Bühler on this anniversary: “My thanks and my recognition go to Bühler for its exceptional and sustainable commitment, with which new standards have time and again been set. I am especially thinking in this connection of the ClassUnlimited™ concept, where Bühler is playing a vanguard role and creating important incentives for young people to engage in vocational training.”

In the next five years, Bühler plans to further expand international vocational training and the utilization of digital media. In addition, more attention will be paid to strategic career consulting on the basis of apprentices’ individual skills, with their specialist qualifications being further fostered through additional individual modules. “We believe that we – as well as the functions within our company – are challenged in the field of training and education to further refine our methods and systems and to be innovative. ClassUnlimited™ is a fine example of this. This concept enables us to simultaneously give consideration to the propagation of digital media within the learning process and the fundamental demographic changes that are taking place. But our most important principle has not changed over the past century: Humans are at the center of all our efforts and will remain there in the future,” says Head of Corporate Human Resources Christof Oswald.

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