Campus News

CGTC Hosts German Apprentices for Training En Route to Internships

Warner Robins, Ga – German students involved in an apprentice exchange program spent a week at Central Georgia Technical College (CGTC) developing an understanding of technical education, its programs and the lure of southern hospitality.

Julie Lange, Mareya Smertenko, and Anna-Lisa Weichmann, are three of 25 students selected from an initial pool of 800 to participate in an exchange program between the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) and the Joachim Herz Foundation’s Azubis Go USA internship program, designed for on-the-job experiences in the southern United States. The program, based in Hamburg, Germany, supports international mobility, as well as intercultural and business exchange for both countries. 

Due to its founder’s long-standing ties to Georgia, the Herz Foundation has developed partnerships with institutions and companies state-wide for hosting interns for up to two-months during the spring.

Each experience abroad calls for students to participate in a two-week stay at a technical college to learn about its involvement in workforce development and technical training, followed by an internship with a company or institution related to their field. 

Lange will move on to a shipping management internship at Kuehne & Nagel in East Point, Ga., Smertenko will shadow event management professionals at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga., and Weichmann has been told that she will get to intern at a chemistry company in Chapel Hill, Nc.

But before the internships begin, they remain intrigued by “irreplaceable” information about the College’s work, and said they gained cultural knowledge beyond education related to central Georgia.

 “Chick-fil-a was great,” Weichmann said, speaking to the not-so technical but ever-so satisfying Georgia-grown and self-proclaimed perfectors of the chicken sandwich. “It was like fast food, but good fast food. And the sweet potatoes and the peach ice cream at Lane’s was great too.”

“Southern hospitality is really impressive,” Linge added. 

Smertenko, the only one of the three who has been to the U.S., said that Georgia is definitely not California and that the weather and springtime here is as lively as the people.

“They have a great way of making sure we felt right at home,” she said.

Culture was part of their time here, but establishing a perspective on technical education, the focus of their trip, highlights the difference between the German model to that of the American.  In Germany the common model for technical education is dual apprenticeship. It is what Lange referred to as “truly vocational”, resembling the job application and orientation process in the States.

First, interested students have to apply for the specific position at a company and its specialized training. Then, if accepted, that company actually goes to the school and signs them in and sponsors their education. This model has increasingly been adopted by countries around the world. In Georgia, it is one of many apprenticeship models.

Practical training, employment, and theoretical education run parallel in Germany, whereas for technical institutions in Georgia it is from their point of view, sequential; school first, theory, practice, and ultimately, work.

“The interesting thing about it is that back home I have a combination of theoretical and practical education, but here students get spend more in theoretical and then they get their diploma and get the practical,” said Lange. “The system we have back home is different because I am already an employee even though I do not have a diploma yet,” she said. “I am already working in shipping and then I get the theoretical training I need for that specific job. And, we also get paid for it.”

Their apprenticeships mean they have jobs as they train, but as they learned, technical education students at CGTC also have a high rate of employment, even though it comes at a different stage.

“Our students are so successful at gaining employment because employers come to us as a recruiting source when hiring,” said Desna Toliver, the assistant director for Career Services at the College. “In addition, CGTC offers certificate, diploma and degree programs that align well with careers that are available in our service areas. Employers seek our students prior to graduation.”

For fiscal year 2016, the placement rate was 98 percent for the entire college. Career Services maintains a job database so students can seek employment throughout their time at CGTC. Since July 2016, 276 employers have been added to the database.

The common thread of both the German and American models of technical education is that employment acceptance is never guaranteed, but highly likely, and once a student commits to the process, opportunities that come are never to be taken lightly. 

“This is a rare thing,” Smertenko said, of being selected to study in Georgia. “Normally, only students who are studying at a university can go and have a time abroad. We are really lucky to be chosen, really lucky.”

A total of twelve student apprentices are visiting technical colleges throughout Georgia. Each college will host the students until the end of March when they will move on to their respective apprenticeships.

Involvement with the Herz Foundation is not new for TCSG. Together with the Halle Foundation, it also funded a Global Faculty Development Initiative in which an instructor for each of the state’s 22 technical colleges traveled to Germany to learn about the German dual apprenticeship system. This is a partnership between companies, chambers of commerce, and technical colleges that provides business and industry with a highly skilled workforce.

For more information about the program, contact Rick Hutto, the director of Global Initiatives at CGTC, at 478-218-3299 or

Julie Lange, Anna-Lisa Weichmann, and Mareya Smertenko, are involved in an apprentice exchange program through the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) and the Joachim Herz Foundation in Hamburg, Germany. 

Submitted by JoBen Rivera-Thompson
March 27, 2017


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