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Let’s cross our fingers for Germany’s best technician!

Dresden

Stefan Missbach is young, and he knows what he’s doing.

But that’s not all. He’s the best automotive mechatronics apprentice in Germany right now. And he aims to prove it at the upcoming WorldSkills event, the world championship in professional skills, to be held in Dresden October 25–28. We will have our fingers crossed for him when he competes against 23 other top contenders from all over the world in disciplines such as engine measuring, chassis and brake, and comfort electronics and high voltage. We caught up with Missbach, 22, to talk about what drives him, how he qualified for the event, and why he sees a future in his trade.

Daumen drücken für Deutschlands besten Kfz-Mechatroniker

Vorbereitungen für die WorldSkills 2022

The dream is within reach.

How did you get here?

With skill and a lot of luck, I’d say. I finished my apprenticeship and master craftsman’s certificate with top marks, so I qualified for the practical competition, but I only placed second there, and it was close. So then, when the EuroCup came around in March of this year and someone canceled on short notice, I stepped in as a replacement candidate – and I won. That was how I ended up qualifying for WorldSkills.
 

What should people picture when they think of these competitions?

The competition is based on a normal day in a shop environment. There are different stations where customers complain about defects, and then you start the troubleshooting process. It's just like in the day-to-day business, but it’s tougher when it's a competition, of course. There’s time pressure, and you might also have multiple problems crop up at once, and that’s especially tricky if they all interact.

Do you know your opponents? What countries are they from?

Yes, we know each other. I met a few of them during the various preparatory training sessions we had, including at the Luxskills and SwissSkills events, and during training in Abu Dhabi and South Tyrol. My competitors come from Belgium, Austria, South Tyrol/Italy, France, Japan, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates. I’m especially grateful to the ZDK (Zentralverband Deutsches Kraftfahrzeuggewerbe, the association for the German motor vehicle trades). Their generous financial support was what allowed me to do such extensive training.

It’s quite a coincidence that this year’s WorldSkills event is being held not in Shanghai, but right in your own hometown, isn’t it? Do you think you’ll have a home field advantage, so to speak, or is it making you even more nervous?

I wouldn’t say I have a home field advantage, or really any advantage at all. I definitely don’t. But of course I’m glad the competition will be held in Dresden, since it means my family and friends can be there. The overall conditions are familiar, too – there’s no time difference, no challenge of adjusting to a new climate, and I know the local food. That does help with staying calm during competition, concentrating on what really counts, and ultimately performing your best.
 

How important is your profession to you?

Hugely. I’ve been excited about this job since my earliest childhood. I practically grew up in my dad’s auto shop. I always admired the complex technology that goes into a car and wanted to know how everything works. The huge amount of technical equipment and features in today’s cars makes finding and diagnosing issues even more complex and multifaceted. I get excited about it all over again every day. And we can't forget that to many people, their car is still a very emotional thing. They're really attached to it. So it’s even nicer to see the smile on people's faces when the repair is done

When people think of your job, they might think of grease-spotted coveralls and concrete activities like tinkering with engines. How much change has there been in recent years?

Like other areas of our lives, the automotive industry is in flux. Starting in 2035, all newly registered vehicles will have to be zero emissions – so, electric cars and vehicles that run on hydrogen or synthetic fuels. New drives, more technical elements in vehicles, digitalization – all of these trends are also bringing new tasks in auto shops, of course. Service and oil changes are still standard parts of our work, but it’s on the wane. If you have an electric vehicle, there are no spark plugs to change, and brake wear is significantly less. There are things to bear in mind with high-voltage vehicles, but for that you need special training.

You compete successfully at the national and international levels thanks to your excellent skills. How do people respond when you tell them you’re from Saxony?

Positively. Saxony isn’t all that well known internationally. A lot of people don’t even know that Germany is made up of 16 states. When that happens, I’m just “the German guy.” But Germans are always happy to hear I’m from Saxony, and specifically Dresden. People tend to have fond associations with Dresden because it’s so pretty.

 

There’s a lot of concern in the trades about the next generation. What do you say to your peers when you’re trying to get them excited about a future in the crafts and trades, about doing an apprenticeship?

Go for it! I got an excellent education and benefited from outstanding support. Going to college can’t even remotely compete in many circumstances. And yet, across society, you still hear a lot of people saying you have to go to college to be successful. But the advantages of formally training for a craft or trade are obvious. Good tradespeople are in demand. You start earning your own money right away during your apprenticeship, and you learn to be independent and responsible. An apprenticeship in a trade prepares you for life.