By Elizabeth Czapski, GACC Midwest
At Endress+Hauser’s sprawling campus in Greenwood, Indiana, third-year ICATT® Apprentices Nicolas Rhorer and Zachary Speas have made up their minds: They want to retire from this company.
“I never thought that I would say this, but at 20 years old I don’t see myself leaving the company,” said Rhorer. “There are so many people here who have been here for over 20 or 30 years. Endress+Hauser offers anything that I might be interested in.”
Speas agreed. “After my apprenticeship and my two-year commitment with the company, I see myself staying here,” he said. “Hopefully I retire from this place—I know it’s a long way down the road, but with this company, I could see it.”
A global player with facilities on six continents, Endress+Hauser has been a major presence in the Greenwood community for nearly 50 years, providing solutions for industrial process measurement and automation for flow, level, pressure, analysis, temperature, recording, and digital communications across a wide range of industries. The company joined the ICATT Apprenticeship Program in 2017 and currently has 10 apprentices in the Advanced Manufacturing Technician program. Apprentices spend three days a week working and two days taking classes at Ivy Tech Community College. Upon graduation, they receive a employer sponsored associate’s degree, internationally-recognized credentials, and a journeyman’s card.
What is it about Endress+Hauser that makes apprentices want to stay for the rest of their careers? According to Endress+Hauser’s Apprenticeship Program Manager and Trainer Robert Head, a big advantage is the company’s culture—and with a program like the ICATT Apprenticeship Program, companies can find and train employees that not only have the technical skills the company is looking for, but also the culture fit.
“When hiring apprentices, you’re building a person of value for your company culture,” said Head. “When you hire someone fresh from the regular workforce who’s been out there 15 or 20 years, they may not have that culture fit that you’re looking for right out of the gate.”
Speas and Rhorer aren’t the only apprentices at Endress+Hauser who see a bright future with the company. First-year apprentice Kyawnaing Htun wants to continue pursuing his interest in engineering there after he graduates.
But his start in the program wasn’t without challenges—Htun grew up in Myanmar, and he struggled with the language barrier, making him hesitant to socialize. But his cohort of apprentices and others at the company jumped to support him. “People here will come up and engage with me and make me feel like part of the community. I’ve started networking and gotten to know a lot of people,” he said.
Htun also enjoys the hands-on experience he’s getting in his field, and how Head makes sure to align the work the apprentices are doing at the company to what they’re learning in school. “Right now we’re learning about fluid power, and Robert will have us do hydraulic and pneumatic work that’s related to fluid power, which makes it more relevant,” he said.
First-year apprentice Kimberlee Townsend values the program’s hands-on training as well. She’s always liked manufacturing: Her neighbor growing up had a machine shop in his garage, and whenever her family’s lawnmower broke, she would go next door and make new bolts or any other parts they needed. When she was in high school, she joined the robotics team. “I wanted to be more hands-on, and I also didn’t want it to be in debt. Here they pay for it and give you the training and the degree,” Townsend said. Although previous teachers have tried to discourage Townsend from pursuing manufacturing and engineering because she’s female, she said everyone at Endress+Hauser has been beyond supportive, and she has female mentors there.
Mentorship is an integral part of the ICATT Apprenticeship Program at Endress+Hauser, with each apprentice receiving their own mentor. Michael Berger works in finance, accounting, and IT at Endress+Hauser and is also mentor to second-year apprentice Grayson Spicer. Berger and Spicer meet biweekly, and over the summer Spicer supported Berger with cost accounting and other operational tasks.
“It’s a great opportunity to share a little bit of my knowledge and to support apprentices on their journey. We want apprentices to be exposed to different roles in the company and have more opportunities to learn about the company culture,” said Berger. “I believe that the ICATT Apprenticeship Program has really helped me to develop my communication skills further into my professional life,” said Spicer. He also values the training the apprentices receive from Head. “He’s very encouraging and supportive and always tries to make sure that we understand that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as we’re learning from them and no one’s getting hurt.”
Head learned his engineering skills from both his formal education and his uncles, and he loves passing on that knowledge to the apprentices at Endress+Hauser. His go-to training method is demonstrating a skill, then asking the apprentices questions to help them arrive at their own answers. He refined his training through GACC Midwest’s Train the Trainer Course. “Train the Trainer gave me a different point of view on how to approach and adjust to different styles of learning,” said Head. “I love watching the achievements the apprentices make every day, and the joy on their faces. I’m so proud of their willingness to grow and take in so much information on a daily basis and try to convert that into what they feel is their next career.”
Second-year apprentice Jacob Reagan hopes to emulate Head’s training for other apprentices. Once he graduates, he plans to take a position in maintenance at Endress+Hauser, but he has also been exploring the possibility of becoming a trainer. “Robert has honestly been one of the best people I’ve
known. I have never seen anyone that is more willing to put their students before themselves and fight for us as much as he has, and I can honestly say if it weren’t for him being the head of this program, I don’t think I’d be anywhere close to where I am today,” said Reagan.
If Reagan becomes an apprentice trainer, he won’t be lacking in work: Endress+Hauser plans to expand the program further, doubling their number of apprentices within the next five years. Apprenticeship training is an integral part of Endress+Hauser’s mission, especially since the current CEO of Endress+Hauser Group Matthias Altendorf began his career at the company as an apprentice.
The scope of apprentice training and flexibility of available positions for graduates is always evolving at the company. Even though Speas wants to retire from Endress+Hauser, where he is now is not at all what he was expecting when he first graduated from high school. His original plan was to go straight into the workforce, but his parents convinced him to attend an information session on the ICATT Apprenticeship Program, and once he learned more, he was excited about the opportunity. He planned to end up in a technical position but discovered his passion for HR during his rotations in his third year. Speas now plans to join the HR team at Endress+Hauser after he graduates. “If you’d asked me two years ago if I would be sitting in an office working with our HR teams, I would have thought you’re crazy,” said Speas.
Endress+Hauser supported him in his decision, an example of the diversity of opportunities and outcomes when it comes to apprentice training at the company. Speas is confident his technical training will give him a boost in HR.
“Some of our HR professionals may not have the same technical background that I do, and it will be beneficial when I’m screening candidates,” he said.
Rhorer’s story is almost the opposite of Speas’: He was on board and excited about being an apprentice from the get-go, but he had to convince his parents this was the right path for him as opposed to a four-year university. “Once I found the apprenticeship, they were fully open to the idea of it and they were just as excited as I was,” he said.
He applied to the ICATT Apprenticeship Program at Endress+Hauser after doing some shadowing at the company, and the rest, for him, is history. He plans to transition into an engineering position at Endress+Hauser once he graduates and sees a lifetime career with the company. One of the biggest perks for Rhorer is having a meaningful career without any debt.
“Some people spend as much as 20 years or even most of their lives paying off their student loans when they often times don’t even end up in a career position that they’re interested in,” he said. “When you can come out from a program with three years of experience with no debt, an associate degree, and the ICATT Apprenticeship Certification, there’s no question about it.”
As part of Endress+Hauser’s second graduating cohort of apprentices, Rhorer is proud of how he and Speas have been able to shape the program. Their support of one-on-one mentorship and rotations through different departments led to their official implementation as part of the program.
Looking back, Rhorer has no regrets—he’d do the program over again if he could. With the flexible and supportive company culture and training, invaluable hands-on experience, the program’s debt-free, earn-while-you-learn approach, and the promise of a valuable career ahead of him, the ICATT Apprenticeship Program at Endress+Hauser was exactly what he was looking for.
“Since day one I’ve been trying to find the catch, and I really haven’t found it.”