When thinking about the occupation of well builder for the first time, garden fountains might well spring to mind. The reality is quite different. These specialists ensure water supplies by drilling many metres down into the earth to provide drinking water from great depths.
When we turn on the tap, the water flows. "Hardly anybody gives any thought to the fact that water companies don't actually conjure this it up out of nowhere," explains Phillip Mülder. The 19-year old is training as a well builder with the firm Vormann based in Nottuln near Münster.
Well builders are not normally involved in constructing attractive garden fountains, but instead drill deep into the earth in order to ensure water supplies. "Particularly in view of the current changes taking place, with everything getting drier, I think this training is incredibly sensible", says Mülder.
A second-generation well builder and always in the open air
He grew up with the occupation. His father has a well building company in Wesel. However, the 19-year-old made the conscious decision to work with a different company while training. He is mainly involved in installation with Vormann, his training company. On Monday mornings, he meets his colleagues in the depot, and before setting off to construction sites all over Germany.
For the time being, as a trainee, Mülder undertakes auxiliary tasks. For example, he passes over drilling rods, adds filter gravel or takes oil samples. This is hard physical work. Mülder is happy for it to be that way. "I'm not someone who sits in an office doing paperwork," says the 19-year-old. He's also out in the fresh air for the entire day.
Mathematics, engineering and material
Well builders work with large machinery. Anybody interested should therefore "definitely come with technical understanding," explains Lothar Schoka, training supervisor at the Bau-ABC training centre in Rostrup. He explains that it is also important for apprentices to be able to recognise, correctly sequence and carry out work procedures. For example, at the training centre Schoka shows them how they can operate the machines via remote control.
The tablet has become one of the everyday "tools of the trade" for trainees, says Schoka. This is because digitalisation has an important role to play for well builders. Those learning the profession also need to be fairly good at maths. "The trainees also need to be able to determine measurements, calculate the content of a borehole or, for example, work out how much material they need on the construction site," explains the master craftsman in well building.
Miners' lingo, and the best thing about the job is the water
On a typical day at the construction site, well builders start by checking the machines and then the drilling begins. This continues until the relevant Teufe - a German mining term for depth - is reached. "This is one of the terms that has remained in usage from old mining language," explains Schoka. Once the work is complete, the skilled workers install the pump and the well is "pumped clear" until the water is of the desired quality.
The training takes place at the vocational school, in the company and in the inter-company education and training centres. One of these is the region of Brandenburg and one is Bau-ABC Rostrup in Bad Zwischenahn in Lower Saxony. "The trainees come together here from all over Germany," explains teaching supervisor Schoka. They then live in the college for a few weeks and in this way learn to stand on their own two feet at an early stage.
What Lothar Schoka enjoys most about the profession is the success he sees every day. "If the drilling has been successful, the water bubbles up, and the customers are happy - it doesn't get better than that."
Well paid and good job opportunities
Payment is in the upper range of the training salaries in construction occupations. Apprentices in companies bound by collective bargaining agreements receive a gross monthly salary of €850 in the first year of training. This increases over their three-year training to €1475. The collectively agreed salaries are slightly lower in eastern Germany. Lothar Schoka believes the chances of employment are very good. He says he doesn't know of a good well builder who is unemployed.
The occupation of well builder is also a niche occupation, explains Ilona Klein from the Central Association of German Construction Industry. According to information from the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), 45 new training contracts were concluded in 2018. She explained that the skilled workers are in demand because not many people complete the training.
Continuing education and training and a stay abroad
Following the training, for example, well builders can be promoted to construction foreman or certified foreman and can manage construction sites. The master craftsman examination represents the next step on the career ladder, as does construction technician. "A civil engineering degree, of course, is also an option for well builders," explains Klein.
Mülder already knows that he would like to move on to the master craftsman qualification following his training. "Six months, full time." And following this he may go abroad to gain new insights into the profession. He intends to go to Switzerland or California.