dual system 2

Dual System Two: Stihl



pallet apprentice established
bolt (2) precision meticulous
trainee candidate combination
face (2) practical manage (2)
adopt suitable supervision
ensure blue-collar ex-military
factor turnover combination
proud pay off promenade
field (2) focus (2) community college
is to be hold up (2) compliment
exploit feedback production line
label generate reputation
key (2) convince demanding
invest make sure production line





Push the wrong button and this robot, known as “Big Bird”, could destroy an entire pallet of Stihl chainsaws.

So trainees like Will Grosz always work under supervision.

But Gross is no beginner: he’s already into his third year of training. Alongside fellow apprentices, he meticulously cuts out bolts with micrometric precision.

Will Grosz, Apprentice: “I like working with my hands. I like making things. And when I found out what the apprenticeship did, I thought, ‘this is a great place for me to get advancement within Stihl,’ so I applied for it, and luckily I was one of the few selected to get in.”

Training with supervisor Thomas Kuhne takes four years.

Then Grosz can call himself a mechatronic. This combination of mechanic, electrician and programmer is well established in Germany — but it’s only now reaching the US.

Will’s bolts are now part of this robot’s arm.

Anyone who manages to build a “Little Bird” is ready to face today’s production industry.

Thomas Kuhne adopted this approach to practical training in Germany.

Thomas Kuhne, Division Manager: “High school doesn’t teach you to think in micrometers, in a hundredth or a tenth of a millimeter. And that’s what we do here.”

But there’s a big problem: Kuhne can’t find enough suitable candidates for his program.

To ensure basic knowhow, he often takes on ex-military staff as old as 40.

Another problem is that industrial work, so-called blue-collar work, often has a bad reputation.

Thomas Kuhne, Division Manager: “Unfortunately, 30, 40 years ago in the United States, it was decided that blue-collar was a thing of the past; and everyone should be sent to college.

Now they’re realizing they have a lack of skilled workers, and that they need this combination of theory and practice that you find in Germany and Europe

Kuhne had to be especially creative for the theoretical models, and exploit all the available opportunities in Virginia Beach.

The city is known for one feature in particular: it is officially home to the world’s longest, recreational beach, with a five kilometer-long promenade along the Atlantic Ocean.

But it’s not just tourists and hotels.

Chainsaw manufacturer Stihl also managed to find the theoretical knowhow to compliment the practical training.

Will attends the local community college four days a week.

The classes he takes fits his training program, and they provide him with theoretical background, like courses in engineering dynamics.

Grosz is the only one in his class who is part of the Stihl program.

Most of the students here study only theory.

Will’s daily schedule as a trainee is demanding . . . but he’s holding up well.

He’s to be a production line worker at Stihl and he says this as much better.

Will Grosz, Apprentice: “Well, since I’ve been trying to study towards that field of degree, I kind of knew I was getting into some involvement, but not this level of complication. It is really different from what I was used to.”

Journalist: “Are you proud of yourself?”
Will Grosz: “Yeah, I am.”

So it definitely pays off for the trainees.

But what about the company itself?

Simon Nance, Training and Development Manager: “Everyone here is moving pretty fast; they’re kind of focused.

Manager Simon Nance often drops by the production line. He’s trying to improve employee development. And he wants feedback from his employees.

The US makes Stihl’s most important market outside Europe.

The tools produced here generate an annual turnover of €760 million.

Stihl products are relatively high-priced, but Nance knows only good quality will keep attracting buyers.

He’s convinced the training program is a key factor.

Simon Nance, Training and Development Manager: “It’s an investment in employees’ skills. And when we can invest long-term in employees, not six months down the road, but six years down the road, it’s going to make a difference in the product and it’s going to make a difference in the customer.

The chainsaws made here in Virginia Beach don’t carry the “Made in Germany” label.

But future skilled workers like Will Grosz will make sure these tools will work just as well as the ones that are made in Germany.

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1. The production line operations is very exact, sensitive and vulnerable. True or false?

2. Does Will Grosz want to work in an office doing paperwork? Can anyone become an apprentice at Stihl?

3. What is mechatronics? Who are mechatronics? Is it easy, average-difficulty or very difficult to become a mechatronic?

4. Mechatronics, industrial, blue-collar professions are very popular among young Americans. Is this correct or wrong? Does Stihl only take on young people as apprentices?

5. Virginia Beach has is famous as an industrial city. Yes or no?

6. Is Will very busy? Does he have a lot of free time? Why do apprentices have busy schedules and very little free time?

7. Stihl operates on a top-down approach. Is this right or wrong?

8. Are Stihl products cheap, expensive or medium-priced? Is their quality low, medium or high? What is their secret to success?

A. How are skilled workers trained in your city?

B. Is there a shortage of skilled workers?

C. What sort of reputation do blue-collar, technical and industrial work have?

D. What will be the future of industrial and skilled work?

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