Tuesday – Friday | August 25-28, 2020

Georgia World Congress Center | Atlanta, GA | USA

Apprenticeships Explained

Date: Friday, August 24th from 9:00 AM - 10:30 AM

Session Code: BMG4

Location: B301

Presented by: Virginia Tech

  • Urs Buehlmann, Professor: Virginia Tech Department of Sustainable Biomaterials
  • Mathias Schmitt, Management Consultant: White Rock, LLC

  • Karl Rüdisser, President/C.E.O: Blum USA
  • Andreas Turner, Technical Training Manager: Blum USA
  • Beau Pray, Apprentice: Blum USA
  • Charlie Phillips, Pittsburgh State University


This workshop focuses on describing the European model of apprenticeships, which consists of school graduates learning a trade in a company that is willing to educate them in return for a relatively small salary.  Apprenticeships are credited as being a part of the reason for the many successes of small and medium sized businesses in Central Europe (Austria, Germany and Switzerland), as apprenticeships provide companies with a steady stream of well-educated, hands-on employees.  Apprentice graduates benefit as well, as the apprenticeship diploma serves them as proof of their qualifications, facilitating their search for employment and guaranteeing higher pay.  Also, companies looking for new hires know about the skills they can expect from an apprenticeship graduate, facilitating their search for the right talent.

The idea of an apprenticeship program has found followers in the USA as well.  Numerous European companies doing business in the USA offer apprenticeship opportunities to young Americans.  Blum USA, the world-class hardware manufacturer with production facilities in Stanley, NC is a leader of this idea with tremendous success.  Blum USA cooperates with Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, NC to provide their and other companies' apprentices with the necessary theoretical background.  Representatives of Blum USA will explain their model, its successes, and how other companies can replicate it.

However, it can be done following a more traditional American model by providing their students with high quality, hands-on training.  Graduates from Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, KS in Architectural Manufacturing Management and Technology are highly sought after in our industry.  Charlie Philips, Assistant Professor at Pittsburg State will present their program and share his insights on why their program is successful.

The workshop will contrast the European apprenticeship model with practices in the United States and will show examples of successful efforts to educate young professionals for our industry.  The agenda, in particular, includes:
Who should attend:  Management and production personnel from small, medium, and large manufacturing companies involved in hiring and education, trade associations, consultants, research and training specialists.

1. Introduction  
2. Apprenticeship  
   - Definition
   - Geography
   - History

3. European dual education model 
   - Current Practices
   - Success story

 4. U.S. practices
   - Current practives
   - Successful model
   - Economic success

5. U.S. example - Pittsburg State University                                  

6. Blum USA - Apprenticeship 2000                                           

7. Key Take Away                                                                                 
   - Current practices
   - Successful models
   - Economic success

 8. Questions & Discussion                                                               

About the Speakers:




As a Professor for the Virginia Tech Department of Sustainable Biomaterials,Urs Buehlmannfocuses on manufacturing systems and on assessing industry competitiveness. Urs has given special focus to the impact of foreign competition on the wood products industry and its relationship with the U.S. housing market. He practices and promotes Lean Principles as a way to improve business results.

Urs has more than 15 years of experience working in industry, including serving as General Manager of Enkeboll Designs, Carson CA.



As Managing Partner at White Rocks LLC,Mathias Schmitt'sgroup focuses on company turnarounds/restructurings and Lean transformations across industries. Mathias has been actively involved in lean transformation projects around the world – throughout Asia, Europe, and North America. Additionally, he worked with executives of Fortune 200 companies on M&A and divestiture activities as well as strategic initiatives. He also has led the establishment of business, market, and competitive intelligence programs to drive organizational understanding of the business environment.

Mathias has more than 10 years of experience working in industry and management consulting. He currently serves as a Regional Continuous Improvement Manager with Yanfeng Automotive Interiors and is the global lead on Value Stream Flow.



Charlie Phillipsis currently an Assistant Professor/Program Coordinator in the Architectural Manufacturing Management and Technology Program at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg KS. He earned both his Bachelors and Master’s degree from Pittsburg State. Charlie’s background is in the production of Higher End Residential and Commercial Cabinetry.  While in college, Charlie was able to participate in 3 internship opportunities that allowed him to experience various aspects of the wood industry. Later in his professional career he was able to hire and train interns and is now in charge of the internship program in his department at Pittsburg State University.



Karl Rudisseris President/CEO of Blum, Inc. in Stanley, NC.
After completing an apprenticeship program at Doppelmayer, a world leader in ski lift manufacturing, and working for various industrial machine builders, he earned a degree in mechanical engineering. In the mid-70s, he started working for Blum in the sales and marketing field at their headquarters in Austria, and he worked for two years at their London subsidiary. In 1978, he moved to Charlotte, NC to start Blum, Inc., the USA subsidiary. Blum is a worldwide leader in kitchen cabinet hardware with sales over 1.79 billion US dollars worldwide. Today, Karl Rudisser is President and CEO and leads the US operation that has more than 425 employees and has sales of 290 million dollars.



Andreas Thurneris Technical Training Manager at Blum, Inc. in Stanley, NC
After completing an apprenticeship program at the Lehrwerkstaette Krumpendorf, an apprentice training school, Andreas found himself working for various industrial machine builders. He then went on and continued his education, and became a Master Craftsman in Austria.  In the mid-80s, he started working for Blum as a CNC machinist.  In 1994 Andreas moved to Charlotte, NC to work for Blum, Inc., Blum's USA subsidiary. Since 2004, he is managing the APP2000 partnership program and is responsible for continuing education and apprentice training at Blum, Inc.



Beau Prayis an apprentice at Blum, Inc. in Stanley, NC.
Beau began his work while in high school studying manufacturing. His work at Blum is part of a training program that provides upcoming high school graduates with an opportunity to gain experience in an advanced manufacturing environment. He is currently on a path to acquire his Journeyman’s Certificate as a quality technician, and graduate from Central Piedmont Community College with an Associate’s Degree in Mechatronics Engineering.