The new ones hit the ground running
On Monday, August 1, 2011, 115 new apprentices met one another in the Sonnenallee – for at SMA, the name is also the program. Uncertainty abounded, people tried to make connections quickly, and more than one person asked if they had to bring anything in particular.
A presentation by the Chief Human Resources Officer Jürgen Dolle about the corporate culture brought some peace and order to the colorful group of SMA “fledglings”. At the latest after the presentation by a few colleagues from the Vocational Training department, it was clear to us that it will probably take a while before we have an overview. And having an overview by no means indicates that you have perspective.
While the technical apprentices were thrown right into the deep end, the clerks set out into the Harz Mountains. We had hardly arrived, yet we could already see what the next few days would bring: a whole lot of group games, interactions, and sports, all with the goal of getting to know each other, growing together as a group, and being equipped for the coming apprenticeship.
The very next morning, our team capability was tested with a wireless navigation tour. Two groups pursued, or perhaps I should say instead, each had the goal of leading the other group to a common destination using telephonic instructions. This task was problematic because the groups started from different points, and except for a mobile phone, a compass, and the unfamiliar map, they had nothing. On behalf of my group, I would rather NOT discuss the result of this navigation tour in any more detail here (nevertheless, praise is due to those who understood the purpose of this task).
When you spend the whole day with a group, the group bonds. This happens regardless of whether you ultimately succeed with bravery or fail with respect to the tasks you have been assigned. The constant ups and downs took its toll on us so evening activities such as playing soccer, rock climbing or just sitting by the campfire looked pretty good.
Social education worker Jörg Faulstich with the apprentice trainers Jens Wörner, Martina Stunz, Anna Bauer, and Sandra Stabik
On Wednesday afternoon, we were supposed to learn more about information flow and propagation within a group. As a preliminary exercise, each apprentice held an empty plastic cup in his or her mouth and had to try and move a particular quantity of water from one place to another without using their hands at all. Ultimately, it became clear that some information had been lost along the way.
For the subsequent construction task, there were several groups consisting of market researchers, messengers, engineers, the Inventory and Production department. The teams and apprentices watched the whole process. The challenge was to build a windmill, a task that only the market research group caught sight of. All information had to be conveyed verbally and in writing. After some initial difficulties, a good group dynamic developed. If we had just had a little longer, the task would have been performed completely and correctly.
We spent the dreary Thursday morning on the low ropes course, which had already been set up by the team members in a neighboring patch of woods.
Once again, the group was subdivided into safety officers, strategists, and the builders. The builders were responsible for the construction and safety of the low ropes course, while the strategists had to consider how the whole group could best cross the ropes. The safety officers were taught how to secure the climbers. After a certain preparatory period, the groups presented their results and each one was subjected to a quick safety briefing.
Even if we were not able to master the task in the specified time, the low ropes course was fun for everyone. The group worked well together, the trainers were full of praise, and we did not even have to discuss any issues. We had reason to be proud of ourselves.
This was the day when the works council and JAV visited us so they could observe us, among other things, during the upcoming interaction on the topic of “communication”.
Our stay in the Harz Mountains was nearing its end. Unfortunately, the planned grill party had to be cancelled due to weather. Instead, we enjoyed other delicacies such as mozzarella, olives, various salads, and honeydew with prosciutto on top.
After dinner, everybody gathered in the gymnasium in order to spend the final evening together. Each apprenticeship group had prepared something, so we were treated to watching Harry Potter and Daniela Katzenberger asking each other where the name of the Sunny Boy comes from, the trainers had to participate in a different kind of assessment center, and we enjoyed a sample job interview. The self-composed SMA song ensured twice the heartache. Meanwhile, pedagogical “eggs” were being laid and everything was reflected in a flip-book.
To celebrate the day, we were even allowed to stay up an hour later – thank you very much for that once again. Due to the aggressive mosquitoes, however, the group withdrew from the campfire into the house relatively quickly. This was really too bad, because at the campfire, the musical Manu played the guitar and was accompanied by the women – and a few men – in song.
Bye, bye Harz
Exhausted and overflowing with many new impressions, we started our journey home on Friday afternoon. Our week in the Harz was marked by reflections, pedagogical “eggs”, forging plans, discussions about time consensus, people seeking mobile phone reception who lost their way, and more or less good singing around the campfire.
Another big thank you to everybody who came along on this trip and thank you to SMA for making such a trip possible for us. It made our transition into professional life much easier and we were able to make some new friends. If you do not know where to turn, you can get a plan together and then consult one of the approximately 6700 SMA employees. : )
Our view of the future is a positive one: SMA is not for somebody who likes standing still. Only for trailblazers. Let’s achieve more together!
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