Trainee programmes: a pseudo-internship, or a true career booster?

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Trainee programmes increase efficiency, build connections and represent a quick start for a career.

Our colleague @Daniel Ehrendorfer took advantage of this opportunity and is currently finishing the final phase of his fast track programme. Find out more about his journey within Waagner-Biro Stage Systems.

From the start, or how it all began

I am sure, that many people who are considering searching for a new vocational challenge don’t even take job descriptions entitled “Trainee programme” into consideration.

That’s a shame, really. I think that quite a few people miss out on a great career opportunity that way. In this article, I would like to explain why a trainee programme isn’t just suitable for career starters, and to tell you about the personal experience I gathered in my trainee programme at Waagner-Biro Stage Systems.

Why a trainee programme?

Programmes like this are a major advantage for gaining a foothold within a company, in particular when switching jobs to a position with many internal and external interfaces. However, this is only the case if the company is properly prepared for the programme.

That’s why Waagner-Biro Stage Systems caught my eye. The people responsible at this company have recognised that, in a specialised sector such as stage technology, it is essential to integrate new employees rapidly.

I was particularly impressed by the fact that they already had a complete training programme prepared, featuring defined periods working in the different departments. In my case, the trainee programme extended over a time period of several months. I worked in all departments, from Engineering to Purchasing, and from Commercial Project Management to my final position as Project Manager in the Project Management department. This guaranteed me fast familiarisation with  company-internal processes. In addition to getting to know the processes, another huge advantage was being able to get to know the different colleagues in the various departments.

The trainee programme at Waagner-Biro Stage Systems

The basic concept of the Waagner-Biro trainee programme is to permit new colleagues an insight into most of the processes incorporated in a typical project. The common thread for the programme was the commission for Carnival Cruise Line’s “Carnival Celebration” cruise ship, which I accompanied from the very beginning.

The “Carnival Celebration” cruise ship is one of four ships of identical construction, built with a length of 344 m and capacity for 6,504 guests including crew members. Waagner-Biro Stage Systems had been commissioned to provide the technical stage equipment. The key features of this particular equipment were definitely the large LED elements installed in the ship’s Main Theater and the Atrium. The unique design permits the LED panels, which have a height of 6 m in the Main Theater, to turn and move. In the Atrium, the movements of the LED panels are even integrated into the stage show. If you want to read and see more about this unusual technology, you can read our article on the first ship in the series, the “Mardi Gras”, here:

Because my prior vocational training and positions were based more in the automotive sector, I started my first trainee period at Waagner-Biro Stage Systems in Mechanical Design. This entry point really helped me familiarize myself with stage technology conditions. During my first weeks, I supported the design engineer responsible in the creation and revision of design drawings.

After familiarizing myself with the project, I was charged with the organisation of the Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) for the LED blade system, which will later be installed in the Atrium. The FAT is a test set-up of the design and serves two important roles: On the one hand, the customer can experience how the design functions, and on the other we can determine where details might still need improvement. It was a fantastic experience for me to coordinate the individual suppliers and partner companies and to experience their methods of working. But the crowning conclusion was a happy customer, who traveled from the USA to see the FAT, and was delighted by what the blade system could do.

The finalisation of the FAT for the LED blade system also marked the end of my time in Design.

My next stop was the Purchasing department. Here I had a lot to learn. Before, I had been sending requirement enquiries to Purchasing, and now here I was on the other side. I quickly saw there was more to Purchasing than can be seen from outside: requesting offers from suppliers and then comparing them; coordinating with colleagues from Design, sending orders to suppliers, and finally tracking dispatched shipments and receiving incoming goods. In addition to these operative activities, a lot of strategic issues are advanced from Purchasing, which remain unnoticed to most other colleagues in the company. These include finding and establishing new suppliers, or the creation and negotiation of framework agreements, or the advancement of process digitalisation in SAP. Although I only spent a relatively short time in Purchasing, I was lucky enough to be incorporated fully in both operative and the strategic thematic areas.

The chance to obtain such a detailed insight was extremely valuable for me – not just because I got to know the processes and procedures, but also because I can now better comprehend and understand my colleagues’ working methods.

Such experiences gathered during this trainee programme are, in my view, incredibly helpful. And this isn’t just the case if you later intend to work as Project Manager, requiring an interface to all these departments. I am convinced that it is helpful for every employee to gain an understanding of how other colleagues work, and to comprehend which information these colleagues require in order to work efficiently. In this way, I can communicate my requests and enquiries to my colleagues more effectively, which facilitates their work and allows me to achieve my objectives more rapidly. This results in a win-win situation for everyone.


I think the trainee programme is a true career-booster for the reasons stated above. Without this programme, I still wouldn’t have got to know many of my colleagues as well as I have. The internal network of colleagues and newly-obtained friends is, in my opinion – in particular in my role as Project Manager – essential in order to comprehend my colleagues’ needs and to ensure that projects run smoothly.

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