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A Hothouse Career

Trainees and apprentices tell of their daily routines as gardeners, laboratory chemists, or precision mechanics

Freiburg, Nov 26, 2018

A Hothouse Career

Photo: Harald Neumann

At the University of Freiburg, trainee programs and apprenticeships are also available in addition to higher education. Around eighty trainees and apprentices are currently working in the workshops and laboratories of the institutes of natural sciences, administration, in the Botanical Garden, or the University Library. Five of them have told Alice Tátrai-Gruda what makes the vocational programs at the university so special.

“When I say I’m doing an apprenticeship at the university the first response is, ‘What? Can you actually do vocational training at the university at all?’ Yes, you can. In very different fields, even. The flexibility that the university offers, especially the certification system and relaxed work environment, are already things that, in my opinion, make it unique. Compared to the side jobs I’ve done up until now, this was like entering another world. It was sort of a culture shock, but in a nice way. At the start, I had to practice soldering. Later, I was given small commissions and after that, I was assigned my own projects. In principle, it then goes quite quickly from assembling, to fitting and on to installation and design of the device. I really enjoyed building housings, because I could really see well how a project slowly develops and is perfected at the end. That’s really something special for me.”

Joshua Schwarber, apprentice electrician for devices and systems, fourth year of training

Joshua Schwarber works on a device housing. Photo: Harald Neumann


“I’ve done lots of internships in industries and at the university – and there was an enormous difference. Lots of things in industry are monotonous. It’s really different here. There’s a great deal of variety. Different projects. We get acquainted with the lathe and milling machines pretty quickly, which isn’t at all the case for some of my colleagues at the vocational school. You learn many manufacturing technologies and manual skills, which really aren’t very common any more. Nevertheless, it’s still interesting and important. The project I’m working on now is my favorite – manufacturing a one-cylinder four-stroke engine. The last one was made here fifteen years ago. The support is very good. Every apprentice has their own master, who teaches you a great deal and answers every single question you have.”

Sarah Mayer, apprentice precision mechanic, second year of training

Sarah Mayer is concentrating fully. She likes working at the lathe best.
Photo: Harald Neumann


“Even before my apprenticeship, I was already fascinated by the world of plants, that’s why I was even more pleased to obtain major knowledge of botany through diverse and detailed training here. In the vocational school we also learn a great deal about individual species, the structure of plants, and different substrates and soils. Here at the Botanical Gardens the plants are more diverse than they would be at a normal garden center or nursery. I can do lots of experiments with the plants, observe how they react, and see how a plant develops from a seedling until it blooms, instead of just raising them to sell them in the end. Among the things I like doing are misting and watering in the greenhouses. It’s a great atmosphere when the sun shines through a stream of water and the drops splash down. Then you could imagine that you really are in a tropical forest. In many ways, the apprenticeship even exceeded my expectations.”

Felix Schwarz, apprentice gardener, with a concentration in ornamental horticulture, first year of training

Just like tropical forests – Felix Schwarz in his favorite spot in the greenhouse.
Photo: Harald Neumann

“My closest advisors in the traineeship are doctoral students. I’ve been assigned to their projects. The tasks are really varied and I think that you learn a great deal more about the background chemistry, because you are, so to speak, at the source, closer to research. The training laboratory is something really special for trainees here. Other companies send their trainees to us to help them prepare for their exams. Here they really place a high value on preparing trainees very well. At school, the entire knowledge of chemistry is taught from the ground up, so trainees without prior knowledge can take part as well. At the end of the traineeship I’ll come away with these skills and experiences that I’ve gathered over time. When I’m in a lab, I feel really confident, because I know what I need to do and how it all works.”

Rim Sayed-Ahmad, laboratory chemist trainee, third year of training

Rim Sayed-Ahmad appreciates being well-prepared for her future career.
Photo: Harald Neumann

“One of my favorite activities is putting together account sheets – compiling incomings and outgoings to prepare them for later entry in the university accounts. When you’re doing it, you have to be very precise in any case, because the invoices can’t always be understood at first glance, but that’s what makes it interesting. My other jobs are writing grant approval notifications for the university foundations, or administering the university’s real estate. The special thing about the university is that you experience a wide range of what the career involves. You’re not always in the same office. Instead, you have different areas of activity at the different institutes. When I share my experiences with other trainees, I notice that the university is a bit more of a sheltered space that offers freedom and high levels of flexibility. And the offerings for continuing education, as well as opportunities to strike work-life balance, such as Unisport or the Studium generale, are very good.”

Marc Boppel, office management trainee, first year of training

As he moves from office to office, Marc Boppel enjoys the variety in his traineeship.
Photo: Harald Neumann


Training and Apprenticeships at the University of Freiburg

The University of Freiburg offers trainee programs and apprenticeships for laboratory chemists, precision mechanics, electricians for devices and systems, office management, information technology specialists in application development or system integration, gardeners – with a concentration on ornamental horticulture, media and information service specialists, and research librarians. Internships at the University of Freiburg offer an opportunity to get to know the job and the training site. A one-week internship within the framework of career orientation at college preparatory and other secondary schools (BoGy, BORS) or an internship over an individually set time period are available.

Vocational Training Opportunities at the University of Freiburg