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"We help people – and that's extremely motivating!"

Apprentices at Sonova: helping people enjoy the benefits of hearing

Everyone who trains with Sonova will be doing work that helps other people. And anyone who enjoys helping others and is willing to shoulder responsibility will find that Sonova's apprenticeship professions hold many stimulating years of learning in store, with life-changing prospects for the future. What's more, the number of apprenticeships on offer is set to increase.

Technical expertise and variety are major attractions, but the overriding benefit is a chance to help people with hearing loss to live a life free of restrictions. These were the thoughts in Thierry Lederer's mind as he began his training at Sonova. On completing his apprenticeship as an electronics engineer, he will obtain the Swiss Federal Certificate of Proficiency (FCF). The course offers scope for him to indulge his passion for computer technology, but that's not the only reason for his enthusiasm: "I'm also really delighted that the work I do can help other people to hear again." Thierry (18) appreciates the commitment shared by everyone at Sonova, as well as the atmosphere of openness, the chance to take on personal responsibility, and the practical slant of his training – a key feature of his apprenticeship from day one. 

At its Stäfa site, the corporate headquarters in Switzerland, the Sonova trains responsible and dedicated young talents who will inject new impetus into the company, motivated by a desire to play their part in shaping the future of hearing. The group is set to expand its quota of apprentices over the coming years. On the Stäfa site, Sonova currently employs 33 apprentices specializing in skills that range from polymechanics and logistics to cooking. From summer 2015 onwards, Sonova will increase the number of places for apprentices to 39. Diversity is the keynote of the apprenticeships, and the extensive training program allows participants to focus on various specific topics within each training profession. Thus, Sonova has successfully positioned itself as a progressive, model employer that plays an active part in Switzerland's dual education system: the firm is a major employer in the Lake Zurich region and is one of the largest providers of apprenticeships.

A job that offers far more than work

Thierry Lederer looks forward to work when his alarm clock rings in the morning. This 18-year-old gets just as much enjoyment from meticulous welding tasks as from concentrated work with the microscope: "You have to be very accurate in everything you do, and that's quite a strain at first. But once you get into the habit, it's great fun to work with the microscope." Welding helps Thierry to grasp the minute scale of the hearing aid components that Sonova manufactures.
 

Hearing aids? Surely they're only for old people – merely a minority interest? "No, that's a prejudiced view," as Thierry Lederer knows well. In fact, 15 percent of the world's population are affected by hearing loss. And as so often happens, once you start to focus on something, you suddenly see it everywhere. "Now I notice everyone on the street who's wearing a hearing aid," Thierry explains. "But I wasn't aware of them before I started my training at Sonova."

Thierry is delighted to have obtained an apprenticeship with Sonova. Dressed casually in a hoodie, he sits on the gray sofa in the studio of Joiz, Switzerland's social TV network; aided by Shelkzen Miftan, the vocational trainer responsible for plastics technology at Sonova, he recounts his experiences for the "Joizjobs" program. Thierry talks about the day-to-day routine and the challenges, and explains what motivated him to train with Sonova. He also answers several questions from the audience, because this private Swiss youth broadcaster gives viewers an opportunity to join in via chat, Skype and Facebook. The response from young people is enormous − as Reto Parolini, Vice President Corporate Human Resources at Sonova, points out: "New platforms such as Joiz will become more important as time goes on because they are mainly targeted at the young generation."

Active on social networks – and beyond

Apprenticeships with the Sonova Group (in German)

Sonova is also present on livejobs.ch, where it advertises apprenticeships. A film that can be viewed on Sonova's website, on various social media and elsewhere gives prospective apprentices insight into the everyday routine they can expect at Sonova. As Thierry Lederer cycles through the company's premises, he introduces other apprentices who enjoy their work and value harmonious relations in the workplace. The community responded promptly to this video with plenty of comments and likes on Facebook, Xing and other networks. "Many of our applicants learn about us through new media," Parolini explains. Others hear about the wide-ranging opportunities available at Sonova because fans post the clip on Facebook or talk about it at school.

Anyone who wants to know more can find further information in the Training programs section of the Sonova website (in German), which Thierry Lederer also consulted for details about his training. There is information on how to apply, and about the "taster course" or trial apprenticeship: this gives youngsters the chance to gain an impression of their chosen profession for periods of up to five days. They are accompanied by apprentices such as Thierry Lederer who let them watch, join in the work and ask questions. These taster courses allow them to gain in-depth knowledge of the profession they want to take up through first-hand experience of practical work. They also learn that the knowledge they acquire here is by no means limited to the hearing instrument sector: "As plastics technicians at Sonova, we process materials that are put to universal use in everyday life," Shelkzen Miftan explains. "You can hardly imagine the number of objects that contain plastic – from CD blanks to snowboards and spoilers."

Sonova apprentices can choose from a vast range of professions

The range of apprenticeships is very diverse: Sonova offers training in eleven professions. IT specialists, for example, can obtain the Swiss Federal Certificate of Proficiency (FCF) in application development, so they become software experts who can develop or program IT applications in a globally networked international environment. Systems technology is another option open to IT specialists who want to train as experts on complete solutions. This specialism includes the structure, setup, integration and maintenance of complex IT systems, as well as network installation and maintenance, and device configurations. IT practitioners are specialists who can rectify faults on hardware and software. Of course, Sonova also trains business administrators and specialists in operational maintenance: they acquire the manual dexterity and technical know-how that enables them to handle maintenance of buildings and outdoor facilities, monitor building services or repair sanitary facilities and electrical or ventilation systems in their later careers. Each training specialism features job rotation: the apprentices work in different departments with alternating assignments that call for different skills. Also, internships offer them the chance to acquire additional experience of their profession in another company. Finally, Sonova offers financial support for trainees who organize a language study program abroad, and those who succeed in obtaining a diploma in a foreign language.

As a new feature in summer 2015, the company is advertising an apprenticeship in mediamatics: this combines the knowledge required for several professions, such as IT specialist, graphic designer and business administration specialist. In the future, Sonova intends to offer apprenticeships for more new professions: interactive media designer is one example. Young people who choose this option will learn how to design and develop interactive and digital communication tools such as apps, social forums and user interfaces for digitally operated automatic equipment.

All doors are open to Sonova's apprentices

However, work content is certainly not the only argument in favor of a job with Sonova: life-changing prospects for the future are also thrown in for free! Anyone who has learned – like Thierry Lederer – how to weld the tiniest components has demonstrated manual dexterity that goes far beyond the manufacture of hearing aids. Sonova helps to find internal job opportunities for the post-training phase. "All doors are open to us," Thierry Lederer says.

I'm proud to be part of a team that works day after day to improve the quality of life for millions of people!

Thierry Lederer, Apprentice

This ability to think outside the box is one of the factors that makes Sonova so unique. But another is a social commitment that involves much more than the manufacture of hearing systems: for the first time, disabled youngsters have now taken up apprenticeships with the firm. In 2014, Gianluca Stoob (who is blind) embarked on an apprenticeship to become an IT specialist with the Swiss Federal Certificate of Proficiency (FCF) in application development. He preferred not to learn one of the professions typically chosen by blind apprentices, such as office administrator or masseur, so he sought out a challenge with Sonova. Now, he has screenreader software and a Braille keyboard designed for blind users to help him with his work, and of course he takes on exactly the same personal responsibility for projects and productive work as his colleagues. "Our doors are open to employees and apprentices with disabilities," Parolini explains. Sonova's expectation that individuals will relate to one another harmoniously is not a claim that merely exists on paper – it is a living reality that can be experienced every single day. 

This is why Thierry Lederer's main source of inspiration is the social vision that is an integral element of any career at Sonova. He wants to become involved with the company's charitable foundation, the Hear The World Foundation, which also provides support for children with hearing loss in developing countries. "I'm extremely motivated by a commitment of this sort. It's fun to take innovation to new heights and to take part in work on cutting-edge developments in electronics." With a smile, he adds: "I'm proud to be part of a team that works day after day to improve the quality of life for millions of people!"


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