The Ahaus Apprenticeship from the Perspective of Ahaus Applications Engineer and Apprentice Program Graduate Bill Tegeler

Bill Tegeler is an applications engineer for Ahaus Tool & Engineering. In his own words, he would call it a “sales support role.” Tegeler works directly with the sales engineers to develop concepts for customers and determine appropriate pricing. After the sales engineers receive a request for quote (RFQ) from a customer, Tegeler reviews the project specifications and then prepares the proposal Ahaus sends to the client.
It’s taxing work, maintaining a reliable understanding of manufacturing while staying on top of modern engineering trends and current pricing and costs. Fortunately, Tegeler has knowledge of the Ahaus manufacturing process thanks to the Ahaus Apprentice Programand the experience he’s gained through subsequent positions. He’s worked hands-on in almost every area of production. The Ahaus Apprentice program is unique in that the students get on-the-floor training in every department, from CNC machining to mechanical design. Meanwhile, the students pursue a formal education through either Purdue University College of Technology or Ivy Tech Community College, paid for entirely by Ahaus.
Tegeler started working at Ahaus while he was still in high school and was planning to go into engineering at Purdue after graduating. When someone at Ahaus told him about the apprentice program in 1994 – which would fund his education while providing him with tons of experience, not to mention a regular paycheck – Tegeler couldn’t pass it up. After completing the program and finishing his mechanical engineering studies at Purdue, he made a career move into mechanical engineering, gaining experience with different organizations. Two years ago, he returned to Ahaus to work in applications engineering.
“It’s the hands-on knowledge that really helps,” Tegeler said of the Apprentice Program.“You start out learning the basics from experienced tool and die makers, and as they mentor you, the trade is taught to you from the bottom up. When I transitioned into engineering, I had a good grasp on how the things I would be designing are processed and assembled.”
According to Tegeler, the education and experience he gained through his apprenticeship is invaluable.
“As far as job retention, whether at Ahaus or other places, thanks to these manufacturing skills I gained, I can run machine tools, build equipment, design machinery, and sell systems,” said Tegeler. “For example, if we have strong sales and we generate a large back log, I can jump back into a design role and help the company get some projects finished. It’s really beneficial to both my career and to Ahaus.”
Would he recommend the apprentice program to others?
“It’s not a traditional career path; I left high school and immediately started working full time and going to school at night. It takes a while to get a degree, but the on-the-job experience is invaluable. Of course it depends on where you look. There are certainly jobs out there that require an MBA, but at some places, experience is as valuable as a degree, if not more valuable.”