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The latest brochures, stories, photos, videos and other current information on the people and products of CLAAS.

CLAAS Mechatronics

Nebraska Governor Checks in on Unique Apprentice Program

On August 19, 2021, Nebraska State Governor Pete Ricketts attended the Grand Opening of the 20,000 square foot CLAAS Academy – part of an expansion project at the CLAAS of America headquarters in Omaha. While the state-of-the-art classrooms and massive, temperature-controlled equipment bays were impressive, it was a small lab just off the equipment bays that captured most of the governor’s attention. This was – and still is – the home of the state’s first German-based Industry Consortium for Advanced Technical Training (ICATT)

mechatronics apprenticeship program, where hand-picked candidates study in an intensive three-year program. The apprenticeship program was sponsored by the German American Chambers of Commerce.

While Governor Ricketts was deeply invested in getting the unique program in Omaha off the ground – going so far as to tour the CLAAS apprentice lab in Harsewinkel Germany – the new Governor, Jim Pillen, and members of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development have continued to show interest in the program. Governor Pillen paid a visit to CLAAS in Omaha in late January to familiarize himself with advantages of the German program and to see how things were going. In addition to a tour of the production facility, Pillen made it a point to stop by and talk to the apprentices in the lab. A whole new class is now going through the program and one of the graduates from the very first class is working in the lab as an instructor.

It's a unique program that is being encouraged by the State of Nebraska in order to attract, develop and retain talent within the state.

The mechatronics apprenticeship at CLAAS in Omaha follows the same standardized system used at the corporate headquarters of CLAAS in Germany. The course work that is being taught in Omaha is the same coursework taught at the corporate headquarters – as a matter of fact, the exams are exactly the same, only the language differs.  Technical Training Supervisor Alex Pompa explained that the program standards in Germany were created by first having the industry collaborate to define competencies. Then an outside organization developed methods to test if those competencies are being met. “This helps me as a trainer because I know exactly what I have to train to, and it helps us as a company know what that path looks like,” said Pompa. “CLAAS ensures that we are giving the apprentices the best possible education.”

Omaha is where all LEXION combines destined for farms throughout North America are assembled. You’ll find a “Proudly assembled in USA” sticker in each cabin. Highly talented workers are recruited to fill most positions on the combine production line, but there are certain positions that require a very unique skill set like mechatronics. The mechatronics apprentices at CLAAS are full time employees and are paid and receive benefits like other full-time employees. Their schooling, tools and books are all company paid. They spend half of their time taking a specific set of classes at Metro Community College and the other half of their day is spent learning in the apprentice lab with lots and hands on training.

Mechatronics apprentices are trained not only in skillsets and knowledge but also critical thinking. “Conceptual thinking is a huge part of their training. These people think outside of the box, and that is what we want. Because when they go back to the line, most of the issues are not written in a textbook,” explained Matthias Ristow, president and managing director of business administration for CLAAS Omaha, Inc.

Upon completion of the program, the apprentices will have earned an associate degree from Metro Community College and a mechatronics certificate from the German American Chamber of Commerce. All with no debt and a guaranteed job.

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