ABB is committed to advancing US-Swiss cooperation on apprenticeships

August 6, 2019

On June 19th, Asa Hutchinson, Governor of the US state of Arkansas, visited ABB headquarters in Switzerland to discuss firsthand about ABB’s leadership in and support for youth education and training.

Hutchinson was introduced to ABB’s apprenticeship program, in which apprentices acquire practical training supplemented by classroom instruction. Afterwards, Hutchinson met with Morten Wierod, President of ABB’s Motion business, who introduced the Governor to the ABB Swiss apprentices who will spend their summer on assignment at ABB Motors and Generators business in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

ABB’s Motion business is the leading provider of motors and drives globally. ABB produces more than 2 million industrial electric motors annually in the US each year, 1.2 million of them in Fort Smith. During the students’ time in Fort Smith, they will apply what they’ve learned in school in a real-world environment. Their projects will focus on a variety of areas correlating with their studies, including mechanical engineering, automation and maintenance. The students will also complete ‘Six Sigma Green Belt’ certification.

“The apprenticeship model provides young people with opportunities to develop the skills required to thrive in the 21st century,” said Morten Wierod. “We are looking forward to welcoming these young innovators of the future to our Fort Smith location for a great summer of learning and new experiences.”

“I am delighted by the strong partnership Arkansas and ABB enjoy.  ABB’s global leadership is dependent upon world-class employees, and Arkansas’s commitment to excellence will ensure these apprentices can continue their education among peers.  I look forward to having ABB’s apprentices in Arkansas later this year,” said Governor Asa Hutchinson.

“Apprenticeship programs are one of key elements in building the talent base that will contribute to the climate of innovation worldwide,” said Sylvia Hill, ABB Chief Human Resources Officer. “ABB is committed to all facets of employee development, from nurturing the skills of our new workforce members to providing ongoing training, skills and opportunities to all our employees.”

The apprentices’ transatlantic assignment is just the latest step in our strong track record of commitment to the development of young talent:

  • In December, 2018, ABB signed a Pledge to America’s Workers. Inspired by the Swiss apprenticeship model, the Pledge promises to provide enhanced training and career opportunities to our 24,000 workers in the US. In the pledge, ABB promises to add 150 summer internships and 75 early-career talent positions this year to help develop the company’s future workforce. Furthermore, ABB pledged to partner with universities and education systems in the US to rethink the way it currently approaches recruitment, career and technical education in an effort to leverage its existing pipeline of skilled students.
  • In January of this year, ABB joined 20 multinational companies as the Global Alliance for YOUth was launched in Davos. Intended to prepare young people for the digital age, the Alliance will provide first jobs experience and education, along with support for young entrepreneurs.
  • In May, ABB was ranked the most attractive employer by Swiss engineering students for the third consecutive year.

The importance of apprenticeship programs to both Switzerland and the US was formalized last year by a Memo of Understanding (MoU) between the two countries, which established a framework to promote the value of the programs.

The agreement also aims to increase awareness of the value of the Swiss model. The value proposition includes the fact that the Swiss vocational education system is closely correlated with the labor market and training is geared to available jobs. For companies participating in the system, there is a reported retention rate of 50-80 percent of apprentices who have completed their training. And even though the training may cost more than $100,000 over a four-year period, businesses have found that they get a full return on their investment.

After the apprentices return to Switzerland, their experiences in Fort Smith will inform further learnings about the ways in which practical vocational training can benefit ABB as they drive transformation and empowerment in their businesses.

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