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150 Years of Professional Education at Opel: Federal Minister Andrea Nahles in Rüsselsheim

22 Apr 2015

  • First apprentice hired by founder Adam Opel with a handshake
  • So far around 25,000 young people have been educated at Opel in Germany

Opel News - Education at the beginning of the 20th century: Opel apprentices during drawing lessons

Rüsselsheim. 150 years of professional education – Opel will celebrate the special milestone with an official ceremony on May 12, which will be attended by Andrea Nahles, Federal Minister for Labor and Social Affairs. In 1865, only three years after Adam Opel founded the company, the first apprentice walked through the door. Since then, around 25,000 young people have started their professional careers at Opel in Germany.

Opel News - Focused: An Opel apprentice practices on a lathe in the 1940s. The teacher keeps a close eye

150 years ago, founder Adam Opel and young Georg Klingelhöfer sealed the first apprenticeship contract with a handshake – at a time when Opel was still making sewing machines and machines to cork wine-bottles in his very first workshop, the legendary former cow shed in Rüsselsheim.

Opel News - Hundreds of young people started their careers in the modern apprentice workshop in Rüsselsheim

Today, the Adam Opel AG is not only one of the biggest car manufacturers in Europe but also one of the largest providers of professional education. Each year several hundred young people start their apprenticeships in Rüsselsheim, Eisenach and Kaiserslautern. For many it is the foundation for their career within or outside of the company. One of the most famous former Opel apprentices is retired Federal Minister of Labor Norbert Blüm who is also set to attend the ceremony on May 12.


In Germany, Opel currently employs 700 apprentices in 21 different positions. The spread ranges from toolmakers to mechatronics technicians and industrial clerks. Furthermore, there are seven dual courses of study. Around 100 Opel trainees are currently undergoing cooperative course.


“Professional education is an investment in the future of our company but also in the future of our society. We are proud of this long tradition started by our company founder,” said Opel Group CEO Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann.


A lot has happened since the start of the previous century – the first ever apprenticeship contract from 1894 signed by Peter Laun still exists today. Around 50 years after Georg Klingelhöfer started his apprenticeship, a systematic professional education system was created. In 1911, 22 young people started their apprenticeships in a workshop built especially for their purposes. The practical aspect were taught in the Rüsselsheim plant, the theory at the trade school in Rüsselsheim which the Opel brothers helped finance. In 1913/14 Opel founded its own factory school.


The first trade school laws came into effect in Germany in 1922, resulting in apprenticeships being served in dual courses under the same roof. The extent of the professional education at Opel grew continuously with apprentices starting their careers at the other German sites too. The tools also got more modern: NC machine tools, CAD terminals, computers, electro-pneumatic and electro-hydraulic machines were all already available at Opel in the 1980s.

Opel News - High-tech: Opel apprentices use new technology when learning the ins and outs of the ultra-modern cars

A new chapter of professional education started in 1999 with the opening of the new Education Center M2 in Rüsselsheim. One part of the building complex is a modernly equipped, three-level education center with a floor space of more than 11,000 square meters. In total, around twelve million euro were invested. Manager Stephan Menke and his team of 40 employees from a variety of professions take care of the apprentices.


The excellent conditions have always been reflected by the outstanding results of Opel apprentices. In 2014, around 80 percent of all apprentices shorted their apprenticeships and registered for their exams ahead of schedule. The average grade of all Opel apprentices was 2.2 – much better than the Chamber of Industry and Commerce average. Every year, Opel apprentices are recognized on a regional and national stage for their performances.


Professional education at Opel is closely linked to the sites. Every year, an open day is organized so that people can in-depth information. Furthermore, Opel have secured some education partners. The company works closely with the Immanuel-Kant-Gymnasium (secondary school) in Rüsselsheim where it offers a voluntary robotics course. Furthermore, students of the Neue Gymnasium in Rüsselsheim are often inviting to workshops. Opel have an especially close link with the Rhein-Main University and their engineering sciences faculty based in Rüsselsheim.


Opel’s professional education offer is also present in the digital world: In 2013, The Facebook pace “Ausbildung@Opel”, designed by the apprentices, was acknowledged as the best career page in the automotive industry by applicant portal “Karrierebibel.de”.