The Governor means business: NRW Governor Hannelore Kraft visited GERSTEL to listen, learn, and garner support for her political programs helping school graduates join the ranks of trained professionals. Mrs. Kraft is shown here with Holger R. Gerstel (front), Eberhard G. Gerstel (center) and General Manager Ralf Bremer to the right.

GERSTEL core competence fine mechanics: For some products, a magnifying glass helps to appreciate the fine details shown to the Governor by Dennis Arkeveld (center) from the GERSTEL production team.

Ralf Bremer (2nd from left) shows Governor Kraft the Thermal Desorption Unit (TDU), the centerpiece of many GERSTEL systems. Application Chemist Jochen Vandenberg (left) demonstrated the use of the TDU in combination with the GERSTEL Twister® for flavor and fragrance analysis.

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NRW State Governor visits GERSTEL

Hannelore Kraft, Governor of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), paid GERSTEL a visit to get first-hand information about the conditions under which technology companies in the German “Mittelstand” operate and to ask the company to add even more young people to its vocational training program. With 18 million inhabitants, NRW is the most populous of the German states (Länder) and the one with the largest economy.

By Guido Deussing

If you measure the German Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) by their number, their revenues, added value, and by the money they invest each year, these companies make up the major group of players in the thriving German economy. In Germany, SMEs are referred to as belonging to the “Mittelstand” or group of medium sized companies.

In 2014, the German Federal Bureau of Statistics published a report: „Mittelstand, the engine of the economy, numbers and facts about German SMEs“. These SMEs generate 36 percent of the total revenues of all German companies and 55 percent of the added value. In addition, the SMEs are responsible for 16.8 Million, or 62.3 percent, of the employees who contribute to the German equivalent of Social Security taxes. These numbers are out of a total population of 81 Million (2014).

This means that politicians should pay attention to and support SMEs, which form a key pillar of the German economy and the social fabric. This is exactly what Governor Hannelore Kraft of North Rhine Westphalia was doing when she visited GERSTEL Headquarters in September 2015. Incidentally, Kraft means Force in German. The NRW Head of State wanted to get first-hand information about the operations of GERSTEL, a global player in the field of Laboratory Instrumentation for Chemical Analysis.

In addition, Governor Kraft wanted to drum up support for a State Government project called “No graduation without continuation, transition from school to professional life in NRW”. The idea behind the slogan is to pave the way for school- or high school graduates to enroll in professional training and education programs in companies. The German two-pronged approach (“Duales System”) combines training and work in the company with classes at professional or vocational schools. At the end of the process, the trainee goes through an official exam to become a certified professional. The political class is well aware that the “Mittelstand“ is the educator of the nation where four out of five professionals receive their training. Governor Kraft’s appeal to GERSTEL was to provide even stronger support for her program. GERSTEL currently has five such trainees and has a history of taking them on as full employees when they pass their exams.

GERSTEL has 200 employees world-wide, 160 of these are in Germany mainly at Headquarters in Mülheim an der Ruhr, NRW. About one third have a B.Sc. or higher education including 14 Ph.D. scientists. Two thirds have professional training including fine mechanics and office/commercial staff, many of whom received their training in the company. “We train and qualify employees in order to support and extend the GERSTEL know-how”, says Holger Gerstel, President and co-owner of the company. Governor Kraft and GERSTEL upper management stressed the importance of the dual educational system to ensure professional training on a high level. The system is recognized as unique and many nations are looking to replicate it. “GERSTEL has received several delegations from China who wanted to study the German system of professional training and to see how it is implemented in practice”, says Eberhard G. Gerstel, President and Co-Owner. Management ensured Governor Kraft that they will maintain and expand GERSTEL’s role as a leading company in its field while supporting and training young people for their professional future. However politics should refrain from adding restrictions to SMEs but rather let them focus their energies on core competences, allowing them to retain and gain competitiveness in the global marketplace.

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