In years past, apprentices began the program in the US with no experience working on a printing press. Heidelberg’s newest apprentices, however, received their basic training over a period of three years at Heidelberg in Germany, becoming familiar with all the operating, electrical and mechanical functions of a Heidelberg press.
Having demonstrated their mechanical competency, three apprentices were selected for relocation to Heidelberg USA, where they are gaining further experience at the North American Print and Packaging Technology Center in Kennesaw, GA, USA, as well as additional experience shadowing Heidelberg USA’s 2nd Level field technicians. Besides receiving expert mentoring and on-the-job training, apprentices also are working to develop the interpersonal soft skills they’ll need to interact effectively with customers in the field.
Apprentices will remain under the supervision of Paul Cavanaugh, manager, Service Skills Development, for a total of three years during their stateside training, returning to Kennesaw periodically for testing on their progress. At the end of the training period, apprentices will receive their full-time regional field assignments.
“As a result of the training they received at HDM in Germany, our current class of apprentice technicians comes to us with an impressive set of basic mechanical skills,” says Cavanaugh. “Our mission is to expand their real-world experience with the range of different problems that can occur with machines in the field.”
Heidelberg’s Apprentice Program answers the need to have trained technicians in the pipeline to meet future demand. Cavanaugh was careful to point out, however, that in terms of the technical complexity of the equipment, “There are few industries like the printing industry. You can’t just hire any mechanic. Basic automotive skills are good for helping technicians learn about tools and tolerances, but modern printing presses—especially Heidelberg's—are a different breed entirely, requiring years of specialized training and a constantly evolving set of skills to install, repair and maintain. A trained press technician has a much better chance of being able to repair a car than an automotive mechanic has of fixing a press.”
According to Cavanaugh, it takes approximately seven years of training and working in the field before a technician can skillfully repair a Heidelberg press. As a result, “Our apprentices grow up with the equipment. It’s the most efficient and effective way to proceed,” he said. “You don’t want to confront a need with a gap.”