While making a choice to pursue an apprenticeship as a technical draughtsman, Mr. Erwin Steinhauser would have never imagined he would reach the top echelons of a multinational company in India. Looking back at his work-integrated learning days, Mr. Erwin Steinhauser, Managing Director, Sandvik Asia Private Limited, shares his story of being an apprentice and exploring the workplace early on. In an interview with SkillSonics, he tells us how much he cherishes the experience and owes his professional growth to dual training that brought him close to the industry.
SkillSonics: Two out of three Swiss choose to do an apprenticeship and so did you. Which field did you do your apprenticeship in and why?
Erwin Steinhauser: We are talking about a period almost 45 years ago and should remember that times have changed. However, the choice was simple – either I could do an apprenticeship in administration or in any technical field. I really liked science when I was at school; maths and physics were my favourite subjects. I wanted to understand how and why cars move, plains fly, submarines dive, how electricity drives a motor but at the same time can be used to turn on a lightbulb. This curiosity about technology led me to an apprenticeship in technical draughtsmanship.
SkillSonics: When you were in your apprenticeship as a technical draughtsman, what kind of job did you envision after graduation?
Erwin Steinhauser: I knew that this 4-year-training would not be able to answer all my questions, but certainly would be the best first step. During my apprenticeship years, it became clear to me, that I wanted to do a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering afterwards. I knew, that my curiosity would drive me further in my studies. And I can honestly say, it still does today.
SkillSonics: And why did you not get a bachelor’s degree straight away? Why an apprenticeship?
For me, it was important to make the connection between theory and praxis – the real-world. My apprenticeship was very much like the programs offered by SkillSonics today. There is a theory part, where you learn how to read technical blue prints, manufacturing instructions, and manuals or handbooks for various production machines. And then, you apply all this theory and manufacture a product, creating something which is real. This combination between theory and praxis was the reason why I first did an apprenticeship before carrying on with my bachelor.
SkillSonics: Do you remember any of the projects you did as an apprentice?
Erwin Steinhauser: Absolutely! There were many interesting projects during those 4 years. However, I always remember one which I believe was my third or fourth project. I planned and designed a new tool, but my stress calculation was wrong because I did not consider all the forces effecting the tool. Due to this error, the product broke the first time it was used. Not really a story I am very much proud about, but it taught me a lesson I have never forgotten.
SkillSonics: What were some of the challenges you faced as an apprentice?
Erwin Steinhauser: I would exchange the word “challenge” with “excitement”, this is what I still remember after 45 years. The excitement to continuously develop my skills in a very structured way over 4 years, the excitement to be introduced to the working environment, the excitement to work together with other people to develop and create something bigger, and the excitement to earn some little money for the first time in my life.
SkillSonics: As we know in Switzerland, VET opens a world of academic and professional opportunities. After finishing your apprenticeship, you went to the University of Applied Sciences in Berne and later did an MBA. Can you elaborate on your path from VET apprenticeship to university?
Erwin Steinhauser: Yes, I did an additional Bachelor in IT (Application Development and Systems Management) and two masters (MBA, Business Engineering). For me, life is constant learning, not only in the business arena but also in my personal life. Curiosity is my driver. It gives me the energy and it is my stimulus for a continuous learning and my ongoing skill improvement.
SkillSonics: Nowadays, many people study with the sole purpose of landing a high-paying job. What is your take on that?
Erwin Steinhauser: At no point in time did I aim to become the MD of a multinational company in India. Yes, some people go to university, get degrees, find high-paying jobs, but I do not know whether they are genuinely happy in what they are doing. Consider, you spend eight to twelve hours at work every day and those hours are not giving you any joy but only stress. Is this desirable, I strongly doubt.
SkillSonics: Do you believe that apprenticeships should become a regular part of the Indian educational system?
Erwin Steinhauser: Definitely! It provides a strong and solid foundation for Indian workforce – especially considering the government initiative of “Make in India”. Switzerland has been going on with this setup for decades and has repeatedly proven its efficiency and success. Since I have lived throughout that system, I can truly say that it works for all stakeholders, apprentices going through the program, companies and institutes providing the program, the industry and business employing those apprentices.
SkillSonics: What is your message to companies in India regarding the apprenticeship system?
Erwin Steinhauser: The number of young people entering the workforce in India, year by year, is amazing. We are talking about 11 Million people annually. India has a vital interest that this workforce is well trained and skilled, it is a prerequisite to make “Make in India” happen. The described apprentice program is specifically developed and provided by SkillSonics is a successful approach to train and develop this workforce of the future. This is also the reason why we at Sandvik in India have decided to implement the apprenticeship-like program in the Skill Center in Pune.
SkillSonics: What is your message to the aspiring youth of today?
Erwin Steinhauser: A well-structured and thought through apprentice program will give you a solid education, increase your knowledge base and improve your skill set – in short, a solid footing and therefore, it is a perfect spring board to enter the Indian workforce.
Guest author: Karuna Ganguly, SkillSonics – For more information, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call +91 80 4115 527.