High-tech craftsmanship still fascinates Tolga Kaya: "Before my apprenticeship I didn't know there were so many ways to help people with technology", says the 25-year-old orthopaedic technician about his work in Frankfurt am Main. With the skill of a handcraftsman, Kaya manufactures and repairs prostheses and orthoses that replace or support the body parts of customers. He also has to have an understanding of digital technology – for example, when working on computer-controlled knee joints.
Orthopaedic technician is one of over 130 skilled craft trades in Germany. The dual training takes place in a business, the theoretical part at a vocational school. Kaya did the three-year training right after graduating from high school; today he is the technical director of production at his company. And his career as a craftsman is moving ahead: currently he is taking advanced training to become a master craftsman.
Kaya, whose grandparents came to Germany as guest workers from Turkey, also speaks Turkish; other colleagues in his company speak, for example, Russian or Serbo-Croatian. "Some clients feel better when we can talk to them in their mother tongue." Empathy in dealing with physical limitations is just as much in demand in an orthopaedic technician as is artistic talent – the latter, for example, when Kaya decorates prostheses for his customers with glitter or cartoon characters. "It's also a very creative job", he says.