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An interview with our instructor Siegbert Lorenz What to know about the Process Mechanic Apprenticeship

Siegbert Lorenz, born in Wuppertal, began his vocational training at 16 as a junior cable worker at the cable factory Kabelwerk Wagner. Today, 54-year-old Lorenz is once again working on the factory premises of his very first employer – namely, as a production supervisor and as the assistant production manager of the cables and wires specialists at Coroflex, which took over the premises a few years ago. For the last eight years he has been working as a trainer in this department and has already supported more than a dozen apprentices on their new career paths. After serving as a trainer for so long, Lorenz really knows the ins and outs of the Process Mechanic Apprenticeship.

Mr. Lorenz, what does a process mechanic do at Coroflex?

Essentially the same thing that a machine and plant operator does: operate a production facility. Process mechanic apprentices, however, receive in-depth training on the facilities as well as the production materials. More precisely, they receive a specific production order, set up the facility themselves, and produce the required amount of cabled ordered. While doing so, they are also responsible for the quality of the product. They must be able to help if anything on the machines breaks down, regardless of whether it’s a problem with the material or the facility itself. That means they really need a good understanding of the machines as well as the materials and chemicals used. The goal is always that, after the facility has been set up, it runs smoothly for the duration of the shift. This is a big responsibility because the machines are supposed to come to a standstill as little as possible.

That means that the apprenticeship is very technical, correct?

Yes, it is. Here in Wuppertal, we mainly produce high-voltage cables for electric cars. Our cables are used by all the big car companies: Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes, Audi, etc. That’s why our apprentices learn a lot about silicone and, for the most part, operate what are known as extrusion facilities. In our factory in Poland, we manufacture cables that are used for thermoplastic materials. Thus, our apprentices are trained as specialists in the area of cable and wire production. We always train with the intent to hire, and that seems to work pretty well. Eight of the apprentices that I have had the privilege to train over the years are still working for us!

Siegbert Lorenz works with more than 40 colleagues of all ages in a three-shift schedule as a friendly, highly functional, multi-cultural team.

What are the various stages in the Process Mechanic Apprenticeship?

In the first six months, the apprentices are with us in the company and work together with us in the areas of extrusion, mixture preparation, and development. Then they spend another six months at the BZI industrial vocational training center learning the fundamentals of metals. They attend the vocation school two days a week during the first year and one day a week during the second. All in all, the apprenticeship takes three years, but it can be shortened by a half a year upon request if a apprentice´s grades are good and they have also performed well within the company. Here, every apprentice goes through all of the areas and jobs, getting familiar with all of the facilities and how to operate them. When the apprentices are at the extrusion station, then they see me a lot. In the other departments they are taken care of by the trainer for that department. But, of course, my door is always open for them!

Normally, the production facilities operate according to a three-shift schedule, and the apprentices are only there during the day shift from 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Our production facilities are exceptionally clean, which surprises many who come in here for the first time.

Siegbert Lorenz | Supervisor Electric Cables Silicone

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

  • Applicants should enjoy repairing and tinkering with machines and also already have some technical knowledge. They should know their way around a toolbox and be able to use the tools skillfully.

  • Good school grades are a plus, and it is definitely advantageous for applicants to know what awaits them in the apprenticeship. They should be open to learning new things and, of course, be motivated.

  • A school internship helps. It shows the students looking into the career whether they really want to pursue the apprenticeship. It also allows both the intern and the employer to see whether they would be a good fit.

Siegbert Lorenz has been working at Coroflex for 31 years. When he was 40, Lorenz trained to be an industrial supervisor.

Finding good people is not always easy. Right now we only have men applying for the apprenticeship, but I would love to also see some women apply.

Siegbert Lorenz | Supervisor Electric Cables Silicone

What makes the apprenticeship at Coroflex special?

We always give our apprentices personal support and help them to find their place – here in the company as well as in the vocational school. We are there for them as they are preparing for exams and in all the other challenges that life may throw at them. One of the things that makes us so special is our ultra-modern machinery. We are always researching new technologies and processes and we keep up with the latest developments. When I started as a junior cable worker almost 40 years ago, the work was a lot different. Both the tempo and the requirements have increased since then. Processes like Kaizen, which is a continuous improvement process, have become more important and topics such as sustainability are now a daily part of the job. And then, of course, the facilities themselves have become more digitalized and complex. This is also been beneficial, though, because it has made our work days more varied, challenging, and interesting.

And, lastly, a personal question: Why do you love about your work and your roll as an instructor?

When I started here, I thought to myself: “With this shift work, you will probably only last a year.” But then Coroflex was such a great employer that one year turned into two and now it’s been more than 30! Coroflex is really an excellent employer. The company looks after its employees and is very family friendly. There is always someone to talk to if you need it, and you can always speak with your supervisor – even about private matters. There is also an excellent health management program here for all of the employees, including the apprentices. What I really love about my job as a trainer is watching our apprentices come into the program young and inexperienced and then seeing them grow into trained experts by the time they complete it.

Lorenz, a 54-year-old father and grandfather to a three-year-old grandson, doesn’t need to go to the gym to stay fit. His attic is well equipped with dumbbells and a stepper machine.

Thanks for talking with us, Mr. Lorenz!