After a 3 hour train ride from Frankfurt to Regensburg in the south of Germany (Bavaria), we did a walking tour, dinner and then more walking. Beautiful medieval city that dates back to Roman times. During the Middle Ages Regensburg was a political centre of the Roman Empire and a busy European trading centre. The cathedral dates back to the 1300s. The old town core is still fully inhabited by people and has wonderful character. It is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The current population is over 140,000, with 3 universities and 3 vocational schools.
This morning five of us met at 6am for a run... through the old town and its cobble stone streets, along the Danube River and back to the hotel. Beautiful...
A quick shower and breakfast led us to one of the technical vocational schools. I have included a graphic below to explain the German education system. Basically the students are streamed when they are about quite young, into academics or trades. Students going into trades then must find a company to 'sponsor' them - there are several applicants for every apprenticeship position, especially for those at highly sought after companies - such as we visited this afternoon - BMW. I was amazed touring around the vocational school at how all of their equipment was state of the art. The areas we saw specialized in training "mechatronics" (mechanics, electronics and infomatics). These apprentices were learning how to program the robots used in factories/assembly lines. Students usually take 3.5 years to complete their program and then start working for full wage at the factory were they trained. 1-2 days at school and 3-4 days at the factory/company. The dropout rate is only about 2% because once the student has a contract for an apprenticeship they are pretty much guaranteed a job for life! Its quite the symbiotic relationship... BMW donates cars for the vocational students to work on at school! There are several companies that have their students training at this vocational school - BMW just happens to be the most well know.
This afternoon we visited the BMW factory where they make 9 different versions of vehicles. They produce about 1100 cars per day and use 2300 robots (hence the need for the vocational students). This factory alone employs over 9000. They have a special program called "Cre-8," that encourages employees to come up with ideas on how to improve things. Workers are provided with company time, materials and equipment to make prototypes. If the idea is accepted by the "team," the innovation is imbedded into the process and the worker receives a bonus! We were not permitted to take photos of the assembly lines but did manage to sit in a prototype futuristic car.
It was another full day and then we walked into the old city centre for dinner. Tomorrow we visit an elementary/middle school.