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An interview with our instructor Dennis König What to know about the apprenticeship “IT Specialist for System Integration”

What does art have to do with computer science? At first glance: not a lot. But, if a friend of our instructor Dennis König hadn’t participated in the CoroArt competition, König would likely never have ended up at the Coroplast Group in Wuppertal. König’s artistic friend gave him the tip to apply – and now he has been in charge of the apprentice program “IT Specialist for System Integration” for the last ten years. We sat down the 35-year-old who hails from the city of Mettmann to talk about the apprenticeship and what makes working for the Coroplast Group so special.

Mr. König, what exactly does an IT specialist for system integration do?

The job is extremely diverse because we system integrators are needed both in the office and in the production facilities. We are there to help when our colleagues in the various departments get new computers and need them set up or when new systems for video conferencing need to be installed for those employees working at home. And, of course, in an industrial company such as the Coroplast Group, we also have work in the production facilities. For example, to read or collect machine data and to transfer data to another system. We make sure that the enormous amount of data produced here on a daily basis is available and can be used effectively.

In addition to Dennis König, the system integration team also includes nine other colleagues as well as three positions for apprentices – one from each of the three training years.

What are the various stages in the apprenticeship?

The apprenticeship begins with a very concrete task: each new apprentice gets to set up their own working station. Then, they dive right into the material. In the first year, there are smaller, encapsulated projects, such as setting up a test environment. Our apprentices also learn how to deal with people as well as telephone skills and how to explain technical details. They too work at our help desk and have contact with many of our colleagues in house – from those who work in our production facilities to the management.

And what do they do in the second and third year of the apprenticeship?

The second year involves more complicated IT projects. For example, setting up small productive servers for around 30 people. In the third year, the apprentices complete the big final project. And because the Coroplast Group is becoming more and more digitalized, we are always able to find a concrete project in our company. Our apprentices often take on tasks in a specific department and oftentimes they end up staying in that department after the apprenticeship is completed.

It’s always important to me to find out the personal interests of our apprentices. Our tasks are so varied and differentiated that you have to decide on a focus area and specialize according to your interests and talents.

Dennis König | IT specialist for system integration and instructor at the Coroplast Group
The apprentices spend three days of the week on location at the Coroplast Group in Wuppertal and the other two in their vocation school.

The three most important tips for the apprenticeship: These are the qualities and skills you should have as an applicant in order to make it onto the shortlist.

  • It’s important that our apprentices really enjoy working with computers and technology. Perhaps you have already written an application or two, run a game server, or maybe connected an electric model railway. If you have completed a taster internship or you were involved in a technical working group at school, that is definitely a plus.

  • English skills are important simply because the IT world speaks English. Your grades in math are not as important; we have had apprentices here whose math grades have not been all that stellar.

  • It’s important that our apprentices are open and willing to learn how to improve their communication skills. In our job, we interact with a lot of people, we listen to them, and explain how things work. Many of our apprentices come to the program somewhat shy, quiet, and reserved. And this is completely fine, since most of the people with an interest in the field of IT are usually not innately extroverted or gregarious. Most of our apprentices have to actively work to improve their social competencies.

The system integration apprentices often work in various parts of the company and during their apprenticeship they also become familiar with the sales and distribution departments. This gives them some additional business and financial knowledge.

What can apprentices at the Coroplast Group look forward to?

To working with me, of course. But, seriously: We only take on one apprentice per apprenticeship year, so that I can dedicate enough time to their training. The apprentices sit right next to me in the same room – and, when we aren’t in the middle of a pandemic, we work very closely together and can share information and help each other if any issues should arise. I am always available and ready to help, and I’m happy to give advice based on a apprentice specific strengths and weaknesses. Generally, we don’t give our apprentices theoretical “lab tasks.” We prefer to actively involve them in the daily work of the IT department. They learn the most this way and it’s always rewarding to see the results of your efforts. The equipment here at Coroplast is another big bonus – we get to work with the absolute latest in hardware and software.

I love working in the atmosphere of a family company. Our apprentices also benefit from the flat hierarchies. Here, they are never just a number. Everything is much more personal.

Dennis König | IT specialist for system integration and instructor at the Coroplast Group

What are the chances that the apprentices will be hired upon completing the apprenticeship?

Very good! Right now we have a apprentice hire rate of 100 percent. That means that all of the apprentices we have had here in the IT department still work in the company Obviously, we offer have a lot to offer for IT specialists. But, if there was one thing I would wish, it would be to have some female apprentices. Since we welcomed our first apprentice in 2013, we have only had male applicants. So, this is my shout out to all the technologically savvy women out there: Be bold and send us your application!

Working as equals with the apprentices: Once every quarter, the instructor and apprentice give each other feedback and share their expectations. This is extremely valuable for both parties and allows the apprenticeship to be continuously improved for the apprentices.

And, lastly, a personal question: Why do you love working as an instructor?

I have been involved in the apprenticeship since 2012. In the beginning, it just sort of happened, since I was the youngest in the department. I was the closest in age to the apprentices, so we connected well. Working with our apprentices and imparting knowledge is something that brings me great joy. My motto is: All of our apprentices deserve excellent, practice-based training that qualifies them as highly sought-after experts. I like training people who have the skills and the desire to work in the IT world and who remain loyal to the profession. And I always learn something new from them. They often work in areas or on projects that I have yet to come into contact with on a professional level. Then the apprentices can also teach me something. And I often spend time gaming with them – we’ll meet up for a gaming night with pizza and Red Bull.

Thanks for talking with us, Mr. König!

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