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Apprenticeships for the win: Separating fact from fiction

Reading time: 6 min

Wondering what to do after you’ve finished compulsory schooling? You’re not alone. It’s a difficult decision for many young people (and their parents), especially given the significant gap between the perception of further education, career paths and the job market, and the reality.

We asked Apprenticeship Coordinator Benjamin Meisenbichler about the truth behind some of the most common myths about apprenticeships and what an apprenticeship at OMV – one of the largest providers of apprenticeships in Austria – actually looks like.

Myth: An apprenticeship will limit you to a certain type of job

"An apprenticeship doesn’t confine you to one specific role. A lot depends on the training approach of the company," says Benjamin Meisenbichler. "At OMV, we make sure that our apprentices receive training that goes well beyond just meeting job requirements. Take our electrical engineering apprenticeships, for example, where there’s a strong focus on future-oriented topics like renewable energy, including a specialized module we developed ourselves. For chemical process engineering, we’re integrating augmented reality tools into our training programs. And because we prioritize safety above all, our multi-award-winning SAVE 3D simulator has been a key part of our training for many years.”

These additional qualifications are taught at the Future Academy, a dedicated training center in Gänserndorf (Lower Austria), in cooperation with the TÜV Austria Akademie
"The Future Academy is our third pillar, complementing the standard dual training model which combines classroom instruction at a vocational school and practical hands-on work experience," explains Benjamin. "During final apprenticeship exams, examiners usually enjoy talking to our apprentices because it feels like a professional discussion," says Benjamin, who is proud of his protégés.


Benjamin goes on to explain: "The apprenticeship is often the first qualification they acquire, but it’s certainly not the last. A significant proportion of our workforce goes on to gain additional qualifications, which can vary from technical certifications, to the Matura, and in some cases, university degrees. " 

Myth: An apprenticeship means fewer career opportunities than a Matura1 or university degree

The demand for people with technical skills is evident across every industry and sector in the current job market. "Our goal is to train every apprentice as a skilled worker and to retain them in our company," says Benjamin. 

In some professions, it is even essential to train your own junior staff. "There are almost no Chemical Process Engineers available on the open job market. This apprenticeship is tailored specifically to our refinery operations and is also offered in conjunction with laboratory technology," explains Benjamin. OMV also offer an option to combine an apprenticeship with the Matura: “This is available to all apprentices directly at our site, and it can sometimes even be integrated into their working hours. This flexibility allows those are interested to take the final Matura exam just one year after completing their apprenticeship, enabling them to earn two qualifications at the same time." 

Apprentices at OMV have access to the same career paths as all other employees. “It’s quite common for apprentices to pursue further training and go on to become control room operators or to advance to higher positions such as Department Manager or Plant Manager”, says Benjamin. “We’ve even had Executive Board members who began their careers as apprentices at OMV."

Myth: You only do an apprenticeship if you don't pass the Matura

“Choosing an apprenticeship shouldn’t be seen as a backup plan for those who don’t complete the Matura. It should be a strategic decision that is aligned with your career aspirations and goals”, says Benjamin. Explaining his own unconventional career path, Benjamin says, “Like many others at that age, I didn't know what I wanted to do, so I stayed on at school and passed my Matura exams. Later, during community service, I discovered an interest in health topics and completed an apprenticeship as a fitness instructor. Working in a fitness studio led to an increased interest in business topics, which prompted further academic study, this time in business, and my life went in a completely different direction. One thing is certain: Every career path is different."

"Among the apprenticeships offered at OMV, those in chemical process engineering and automation and process control technology are notably demanding. When we present these training programs in schools, even HTL2 teachers are impressed.  Our apprentices are expected to demonstrate their skills and knowledge just as they would in higher education."

Myth: Technical apprenticeships are only for boys

"This myth dates back to an era when industrial professions were associated with heavy physical labor, and men had an advantage in strength," says Benjamin. "Nowadays, we have completely different tools available, which enable women to excel in these professions. Currently, women make up about 20% of technical apprentices at OMV, and we’d like it to be significantly more.” In pursuit of this goal, OMV actively promotes these career paths at job and career fairs, highlighting the opportunities for women in STEM fields.

Myth: As an apprenticeship, the serious side of life begins earlier and all you do is work 


"I’d say it’s quite the opposite: You have the opportunity to choose your own path at an earlier stage," says Benjamin. "Apprentices have chosen a paid training program, and yes, that comes with a certain amount of commitment. But at the same time, they learn to take responsibility for their own lives and start earning their own money." 

Both the social environment and personal development play a major role in training. "We care about our what happens to our apprentices before 7 a.m. and after 3.30 p.m.," Benjamin emphasizes. "There are always several mentors who are ready to listen, whether it's about family issues or learning challenges. We look after each other."

For apprentices at OMV, every day is different: "For instance, we offer English courses, group sports activities during working hours, and there are also opportunities for internships abroad." At the start of the apprenticeship, there’s also a team-building event for all apprentices across all of the different fields: "It’s a chance to meet everyone and begin this new chapter together."  

Myth: Apprenticeships are poorly paid

Starting salaries for those with a bachelor’s or master’s degree are not much higher than for young skilled workers. "As an apprentice, however, I earned my own money four years before everyone else and have been contributing to a pension fund for four years longer. Given this, as well as the development and career opportunities offered in our company – which are the same for everyone – apprentices definitely have a head start that is not easily caught up."


Beyond the benefits already described, such as the chance to combine an apprenticeship with Matura studies, access to fitness training and English courses, etc., there are attractive bonuses for good performance and numerous perks such as affordable, good quality food at each of our sites, paid public transport, a shuttle between locations, an income subsidy during military or community service, and much more. "Wage negotiations in our industry always include the apprentices as well," says Benjamin.

The deadline to apply for an apprenticeship at OMV is February 18. All information about the apprenticeships and how to apply can be found here.

1 The Matura is an exam for those around 18 who have finished their upper secondary education at a Gymnasium, serving as a qualification for university entry.
2 An HTL teacher is an educator at a Höhere Technische Lehranstalt, which is a secondary school focused on technical and engineering education.

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