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    Apprenticeship program enriches talent pool, enhances readiness

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    Story by Candy C Knight 

    2d Theater Signal Brigade

    GERMERSHEIM, Germany — Since its inception in 1952, the 6981st Civilian Support Group has undergone many changes in its more than 70-year history. However, one constant remains – the need to prepare the future to continue the unit’s legacy of providing outstanding service throughout U.S. Army Europe and Africa’s area of responsibility.

    The unit’s mission is to engineer, install, maintain, and repair mission command network cable infrastructure throughout U.S. Army Europe and Africa’s area of responsibility. Recruiting and training new technicians are daunting tasks due to a highly competitive employment market that continues to grow.

    The 6981st CSG’s Ausbildung zum Systemelektroniker, or System Electronics Technician Apprenticeship program, is one of the various programs the unit implemented to find and grow young craftsmen, providing them with the training and expertise needed to support the unit’s mission and fill vacant positions due to a high number of retirees.

    The three and half year program offers competitive wages, and hands-on training and experience in a highly-demanding career field.

    “During the program, apprentices learn the basics, from the proper use of personal protective equipment, to knowledge of the different equipment and tools, and how to handle the tools correctly,” said Gerd Drechsler, Commander, 6981st CSG.

    Correct installation of cabling systems requires technicians have a fundamental understanding of the proper procedures and safety requirements. Basic instruction in cable knowledge and color coding are also part of the apprenticeship curriculum. Apprentices also learn fundamentals about copper cables, fiber optical cables, and also basics of power cables. Learning the proper usage of core cutters, miter box saws, and other advanced electrician kits is also a crucial part of the program.

    “They also learn to work with different materials like plastic conduit or steel pipes used to install cable runs,” Drechsler said.

    For Kay Wehrsenger, a Telecommunications Mechanic, the program provided an excellent opportunity to help with the transition from school to working life.

    “My mother read an article about the apprenticeship program and told me about it because I was right at the end of my school carrier,” Wehrsenger said. “I was interested in the type of work the 6981st CSG executes, so I decided to give the apprenticeship program a try.”

    Christopher Koch decided to apply for the program after reviewing a Civilian Human Resources Agency’s job listing.

    “My father was already working for the U.S. Army for ten years when he showed me the job list from CHRA,” Koch said. “So, I decided to take the opportunity.”

    Koch stated he didn’t have high expectations for the program, despite his willingness to apply.

    “To be honest, I had low expectations because of what other people and friends said about their various apprenticeship programs. However, I am glad I was proved wrong. The 6981st CSG provided me with a lot of knowledge via on-the-job training. They also helped me better understand certain aspects of the career field.”

    Koch added that the program also gave him a solid foundation inside the U.S. Army and the community.

    “I look at other apprenticeship programs outside the U.S. Army and feel most apprentices are used as a cheap workforce,” Koch said. “I enjoyed my apprenticeship because I noticed how much the 6981st CSG would do for me to ensure I succeed. The program provided me with new skill sets, a solid foundation to build upon, and opportunities to explore.”

    The program is open to all nationalities except U.S. citizens. This is because of legal regulations and agreements such as the Bretano-Trimple agreement and NATO Truppenstatut.

    Potential applicants should have at least a Realschule degree, with an emphasis in math and physics. A Realschule degree is similar to a magnet high school or vocational school. German language proficiency is a program prerequisite since most of the on-the-job training and courses, such as the Chamber of Crafts/Handwerkskammer, are conducted in German.

    Program graduates are hired on a temporary contract until a permanent position becomes vacant.

    “Additionally, graduates can apply for non-U.S. Army positions once they’ve fulfilled a length of service requirement,” Drechsler said.

    The two most important lessons Drechsler wants apprentices to learn are professionalism and collaboration.

    “I hope they learn to work competently and to be great team players and teammates,” he said. “But I also hope that they learn how to grow and to assert themselves as their self-confidence grows.”



    Date Taken: 04.04.2023
    Date Posted: 04.04.2023 05:17
    Story ID: 441911
    Location: GERMERSHEIM, DE 

    Web Views: 132
    Downloads: 0