Governor Mike Pence spent the second day of his jobs trip to Germany learning firsthand about the country's distinguished dual system of workforce training at the headquarters of Zentis GmbH & Co. KG in Aachen.
"Indiana's skilled workforce is the backbone of our Hoosier economy, helping companies from around the world reach new heights," said Pence. "After learning about Germany's training initiatives last summer, it was a pleasure touring Zentis today to see it in action. I saw many similarities to programs recently launched back home that match training with regional needs in all corners of our state. Germany has been a leader in workforce development for decades, providing a benchmark for what Hoosiers are doing and what we can achieve."
Last summer, the Governor met with then-Ambassador to the United States Dr. Peter Ammon in Indiana to promote the Skills Initiative, an effort led by the German Embassy to identify and spread best practices in sustainable workforce development in the United States. The dual system of vocational training has been attributed as one of the factors in Germany's economic success. In Germany, companies and the public sector work collaboratively to develop coherent curriculums and provide optimal training facilities that train workers to meet industry needs.
Today, the Governor met with leaders of Zentis, Europe's leading fruit processing company, to learn about and tour its dual system of vocational training. In conjunction with the Aachen Chamber of Commerce, Zentis provides trainees with on-the-job practical training approximately three to four days a week and the vocational school delivers the academic part of the curriculum for the other one to two days. The training for apprentices lasts between two to three and a half years.
Currently, Zentis has 42 apprentices representing 13 different vocational fields in its apprenticeship program. It is estimated that more than 250 apprentices have graduated since the launch of the program in 1963, with several of them now working at the company's facility in Plymouth, Ind.
"Over the years we have developed our apprenticeship program continuously. We are very proud to present some insights to Governor Mike Pence and we are sure that he will take a lot of interesting experiences and suggestions back to Plymouth," said Karl-Heinz Johnen, member of Zentis' management board. "By the way, several of our former German apprentices are currently working at our facility in Plymouth, where we put great emphasis on highly qualified staff as well. That's our way of bringing the intercultural friendship between Germany and the United States to life."
Zentis' first North American operation was established in 2006 in Plymouth, Ind., where it produces more than 10 million pounds of filling and preparation products monthly. In 2012, the company announced plans to invest $15.6 million to expand its production capability in Plymouth, adding 67 new jobs. Today, the company operates out of an 180,000 square-foot facility and employs 285 Hoosiers in Marshall County.
Encouraging innovative and collaborative career and technical training opportunities for Hoosier students continues to be at the forefront of Pence's initiatives, with today's trip adding momentum to Indiana's career preparation front. Created by the 2013 General Assembly at the request of the Governor, Indiana's eleven Regional Works Councils further the Governor's commitment to technical training options leading directly to career or college. The Councils bring together more than 160 educational, workforce, and business and industry leaders to evaluate local landscapes for educational programming, business needs and potential skills and credentials gaps between the two. These Councils are currently considering matching grants that require private investment and will foster and scale innovative career and technical education curriculum across Indiana.