PIQUA — German exchange students received a warm welcome at the Upper Valley Career Center (UVCC) from local dignitaries and U.S. Reps. Jim Jordan and Warren Davidson after they finished up what was for most of them their first weekend in the U.S.
“It is my pleasure to welcome our guests and visitors from Germany as well as our other distinguished visitors for today,” Dr. Nancy Luce, UVCC superintendent, said. Luce explained how UVCC Executive Director Jason Haak and UVCC Apprenticeship Coordinator Tony Trapp had previously visited Hannover, Germany for the Hannover Messe global trade fair for industrial technology. They attended the event with representatives from Troy Area Chamber of Commerce and Troy Development Council before the school decided to pursue this exchange in order to give students a similar opportunity.
“We were extremely interested in the German apprenticeship model because we have a very strong apprenticeship program here at Upper Valley Career Center, thanks to the leadership of Tony Trapp,” Luce said. Luce added that they have 62 apprentices this year who are employed in companies throughout the region.
“Thank you so much for the very warm welcome here,” Mathias Merker, one of the coordinators of the exchange program, said. “This is an overwhelming reception.” Merker said that he never had a experience like this before with a special welcome ceremony that included meeting congressmen representing the area along with meeting civic leaders.
The Germany exchange students will be visiting industry centers throughout the region during their stay as part of the UVCC’s German American Apprenticeship Partner program. They will also visit classrooms, tour technical labs, and view the campus manufacturing facility.
“They want to become career leaders of tomorrow,” Merker said. “They’re all students in our vocational high school in Hannover (Germany) and they’re studying to become engineers in different fields like media, electronics, or mechanical.”
“Welcome to our great country, and let me just say congratulations,” said Jordan, R-Urbana, 4th District. “Congratulations on this initiative and what it will mean for collaborative work and the great apprenticeship program you already have working.”
Jordan then introduced Davidson, 8th District, which is the district where UVCC is located.
“It is great to have you guys here and apart of the apprenticeship program that is really one of the biggest and best in the state,” Davidson said after offering a greeting in German to the students. Davidson said that, at his company, they had seven apprentices working with them.
“I’ve always been interested in the success that German apprenticeship models had,” Davidson said. He added he thought it was a success for the schools to be able to make this exchange happen before remarking on the reason why they were all there and why those programs were created: to help mold a “talented workforce.”
“When I’m out talking to manufacturing companies, when I’m out talking to healthcare companies, trucking companies, retail companies — you name the sector — in the past two years since I’ve made this transition nearly, everyone is looking for talented workforce,” Davidson said. “They’re all saying, ‘We could grow even faster if we could only find the right workforce.’ And so, this is a great place to do it in the region, but we’re really excited you’re here to help to add to the value and hopefully you’ll pick up a few things, too.”
City of Piqua Mayor Kazy Hinds also welcomed the exchange students, saying, “It is with great honor that I welcome you all to Piqua.” Hinds had once been like those students as she had spent a year as an exchange student in Kiel, Germany.
“I sat in your seat many years ago,” Hinds said. “You are always welcome back here in Piqua.”
Also part of this same program, U.S. high school students will be visiting Germany from Oct. 28 to Nov. 9 to take similar tours in Germany as well as learn about Germany’s manufacturing industry. Of the 10 UVCC students participating in the exchange program, most of them are students in UVCC’s School-to-Apprenticeship Program as well, which provides on-the-job training and helps students get a job that requires a high level of skill.
“Students are going to get that opportunity to learn about their apprenticeship model there,” Trapp, apprenticeship coordinator, said. The students will also live with host families for a portion of the time they are there. The students will also have opportunities to learn about the German culture and history as well as go on local tours.
”I’ve never been outside of the country before,” UVCC student Mitchel Heuing said, adding that he was excited about the opportunity.
“It feels like a great experience to get to go to a new country,” UVCC student Blake Ike said. Another UVCC student, Levy Lavy, also added, “It’s a once in a lifetime experience.”
The UVCC students who will be going on the trip next month are already hosting the German students. Trapp said that some of the students were able to connect with their German counterparts over social media prior to their arrival in the U.S.
“They’re going to be just like family,” Trapp said. “We took ours to a baseball game.”
The students from Germany had wrapped up their weekend and were preparing to tour UVCC facilities on Monday. The five German exchange students included David Lorenz, Dominique Mahler, Puyan Mayer, Nick Brausewetter, and Fiete Ruben Leiweber, each of Hannover, Germany. They arrived in the U.S. on Friday and will be staying until Oct. 4.
They said that the trip was “pretty fun” so far. When asked what their favorite part of the trip was so far, Leiweber said it was nature and and Mayer said it was watching NFL football.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Lorenz said about the trip.
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