It’s been a long but lovely day, and I’m exhausted, so I will try to keep today’s entry brief.
This morning, we joined our friends from both Rhein-Waal University and Berufskolleg Kleve to tour Probat, a family-owned business that produces coffee roasting machinery. We were given a tour of the museum, taught how to roast coffee, and shown around the research & design area, as well as the factory. We were also told a bit about the apprenticeships that are conducted at Probat, which include the fields of office management, machine tool fabrication, and welding.
After a detailed tour of Probat, we visited Spectro, a producer of analytics instruments. There we listened to a presentation about Spectro’s role in Vocational Technical Education and learned more about the benefits for companies in training apprentices. The apprenticeship system may seem like a poor investment to companies outside of Germany, but there are far more benefits than drawbacks. While it may seem, to American companies, a huge waste of time and money, since apprentices come in with little knowledge and they are paid a training wage while learning. Additionally, the apprentices are being trained for nationally recognized certifications and not specifically only to meet the needs of the company; therefore, the company is training workers that are just as likely to leave as they are to remain with the company.
However, the system ensures that there is a wide pool of talent in Germany to meet the needs of the whole workforce. Additionally, the apprenticeship system gives the company the chance to “try out” the apprentices before offering them full-time work upon certification. At Spectro, fully half of the apprentices are retained upon completion of their certifications. Some of those who leave do so because Spectro chooses not to take them. Others leave to pursue even higher levels of education; Spectro keeps in contact with them and follows their careers to attempt to bring them back later at higher levels within the company. This saves the company recruiting costs and prevents poor hiring from taking place.
After the manufacturing tours, we were given the opportunity to do a bit of the tourist thing in the nearby city of Kalkar. There we were given an engaging and funny tour of the Cathedral of St. Nicolai, a medieval church that has retained its original artwork. This was an incredible place. My photos cannot do it justice.
Most incredible of all were these intricate, 3D oak wood carvings.
Our tour guide was a very outgoing and knowledgeable local who kept us all laughing while filling our heads with knowledge of the medieval church, the history of Kalkar, and the many details of this place.
We were in a great mood after our tour, and then it was followed up by yet another wonderful German dinner at another gem of the village: Ratskeller Kalkar.
Ratskeller Kalkar is a fine dining restaurant on the ground floor of the town hall. The business of the city is conducted on the floors above. The Ratskeller Kalkar, being on the lower level, features very low, rounded ceilings and arched doorways, giving one the feeling of being in a basement or a hobbit house.
The tables were lavishly set with fresh flowers, and the meal was once again rich and of the highest quality.
I had a leek soup, lamb in a port wine sauce, bacon wrapped asparagus, and potatoes. The food was so fresh and everything homemade, as good as I’ve had anywhere.
The room was buzzing with talk and laughter, a meal full of fellowship with our colleagues from our two partner schools, but there was also a twinge of sadness as we realized this would be our final meal together. Tomorrow, we just have a short visit to a manufacturing facility in the Netherlands and a final wrap up with our hosts at Rhein-Wall. Our colleagues at both schools have hosted us so graciously; this has often felt like a luxury vacation. I truly hope to build relationships with several of these wonderful, giving people.