On Monday August 19, 2013, German watchmaker Glashütte Original welcomed twenty-eight new apprentices to start off their three-year training at the Alfred Helwig School of Watchmaking. Of 28 apprentices, 24 will learn the profession of watchmaking and 4 will acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to become toolmakers. This nearly 100% increase in the number of training positions represents one aspect of the Saxon manufacture's response to growing worldwide demand for its exclusive timepieces.
Glashütte Original Managing Director Günter Wiegand formally presented the new apprentices to Gunnar Müller, director of the school, and his team of teachers. The new class is the 13th to begin its training since the company-owned school was opened in Glashütte in 2001.
In the initial years of its operation, the school accepted 12 watchmaker apprentices each year; this year Glashütte Original doubled this number of watchmaker apprenticeship openings to 24. The number of beginning toolmaker apprentices grew from 3 to 4. The strong growth in the number of training positions has been accompanied by an expansion of the school's reach in recruitment; apprentices now come from all over Germany. Among the future watchmakers and toolmakers in this year's class are young people from Hamburg, the Rhineland and Baden-Württemberg. The Alfred Helwig school makes use of state-of-the-art equipment to provide students with the exceptionally high level of craft skills necessary to become professional watchmakers or toolmakers. Required courses in theory are accompanied by those offering experience and insight into in the practical aspects of the profession.
In the course of the three or three and a half year training period, a number of different practical training courses bring students into selected areas of assembly and service at the Glashütte Original manufacture. The goal of the course is to teach students the traditional craft of watchmaking as well as introduce modern techniques and technologies and equip students to make effective use of them.
Considerable value is also placed on the maintenance of international standards of training, emphasized through the cooperation, unique in Germany, of the Glashütte Original Alfred Helwig School of Watchmaking with Switzerland's WOSTEP —Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program. This partnership allows apprentice watchmakers who pass their final examination at the Alfred Helwig School to obtain, along with the German Skilled Worker's Certificate, the WOSTEP diploma.
With the start of their training Managing Director Günter Wiegand made a promise to the new apprentices: if they complete their course with an overall grade higher than 2.0 —equivalent to mark B in the USA and in the UK—, they will obtain what has become a rarity in Germany today: a guaranteed job in the Glashütte Original manufacture or another Swatch Group company.
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