"We bring the latest electronics to the test track!" - Automotive training on the next vehicle generation

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Electro mobility brings many changes - also for automotive mechatronics technicians. Sebastian Stephan is well prepared for the new requirements: The 24-year-old is one of the first automotive mechatronics technicians at Mercedes-Benz to complete his training with a focus on system and high-voltage technology. He now applies his know-how in the start-up factory in Sindelfingen in order to bring the latest technologies to the vehicles and the test track. In his interview, Sebastian Stephan tells us why he loves working very closely on the development of the next generation of electric vehicles from Mercedes-Benz - and how he obtained his apprenticeship.

Sebastian, you are one of the first automotive mechatronics technicians to specialise in system and high-voltage technology. What is special about this training?

The training prepares prospective automotive mechatronics technicians for the new requirements when working on modern vehicles. For example, you learn about the latest electric and hybrid drives, battery technologies, new onboard networks and charging systems. With comfort, safety and assistance systems, as well as automated driving systems, cars are constantly evolving. But the training also includes the classic disciplines such as mechanics, which vehicles won't be able to do without in the future either (laughs).

“It was clear to me that electromobility is the future, and I wanted to be a part of it. My colleagues and I were the first to be trained on electric vehicles."

How did you come to do your training?

I have always liked to tinker, tinkering with my scooter in the garage at the weekend and later with my car. I was simply interested in how everything works and is connected. After leaving school, I wanted to do something practical. An acquaintance had told me about the Let's Benz selection process . Of course, that was right up my alley. I applied and was soon invited to the test and interview. And soon after that I had been accepted.

So in 2017 you started your training …

Yes! By the way, I started with a classic automotive mechatronics apprenticeship. In the second year of the apprenticeship, our supervisor then asked us if we could imagine specialising in system and high-voltage technology. I was enthusiastic right away because it was clear to me that this is the future, and I wanted to be a part of it. My colleagues and I were the very first to be trained on electric vehicles. After that I went straight to the factory to work in the rework department, where I became an electrics specialist.

Today you work at the start-up factory in Sindelfingen, among other places. What is this about?

In a nutshell: We equip test vehicles with newly developed systems or build complete prototypes. The vehicles we work on will later be used on the test track and in test bench trials, for example - or are on the roads around Stuttgart as disguised prototypes.

And what does the start-up factory look like?

Actually, it looks like a normal car workshop, only much, much bigger (laughs)! We often work on eight or nine vehicles at the same time. The difference is that we work on technologies and vehicles that are not even on the market yet. We do this in cooperation with our colleagues from Development, and receive instructions from there as to which control units should be installed and how the individual systems are to be connected to each other. Every vehicle is new and different, which makes it really exciting.

As a next step in his career, Sebastian Stephan would like to start studying electrical engineering or automotive engineering.

How do you and your team work together?

In the start-up factory we are a team with different areas of expertise - we have specialists for the vehicle body, suspension and electronics. We all support each other. Sometimes the electronics specialists need help when measuring a line, for example. At other times, a suspension specialist may need assistance with the disassembly. It's a continuous learning process. And especially when it comes to new systems, such as sensor technology for autonomous vehicles, I always have to get to grips with new problems - I really enjoy that.

And what prototypes are you currently working on?

That's top secret, of course (laughs). Only this much: it is about the basis for our new range of electric vehicles - for example the next generation of our EQA and EQB. After all, digitisation and electro mobility are central components of the business strategy at Mercedes-Benz. Being involved in this at first hand is really fascinating for me.

What makes the working atmosphere at Mercedes-Benz special for you?

What makes it really special is the close cooperation between colleagues. This already starts during the training: fortunately, there's always an experienced colleague to help you out. I remember the first time I pinned electrical connections in a vehicle. This requires fine judgement, and it took forever. My colleague then showed me a few tricks, and suddenly it all went very quickly. This is the help you need when finding your way into professional life. Nowadays I love it when I can give our young people the occasional hint myself. And of course Mercedes-Benz offers a good overall package with many career opportunities.

And what do you plan to do next?

I am thinking of studying electrical or automotive engineering. At Mercedes-Benz, there is also the option of studying while working. The idea of delving into things more deeply is tempting. But I could also imagine moving to one of our plants abroad for a while, and gaining international experience there.

Finally, another question: Where would we be likely to find you on a Saturday at 10:30 a.m.?

If the weather is bad, I'd be in the garage tinkering with my motorbike, and in good weather I'd be out and about in the Black Forest. There are lots of cool motorbike routes with lots of bends, but not too much traffic - one of my favourite routes goes through the Murgtal valley to Forbach.

Sebastian Stephan taught himself basic mechanics in his home workshop by tinkering with his scooter. After leaving high school, he turned his passion into a profession: He started his training as a vehicle mechatronics technician at Mercedes-Benz, and was one of the first trainees in Germany to specialise in system and high-voltage technology. Following his apprenticeship, he initially worked in the in the rework department in production, ensuring that all the electrics of newly produced vehicles worked perfectly, and developed to become an electrical specialist. Today, he installs newly developed systems in test vehicles at the start-up factory in Sindelfingen, and is therefore closely involved in the mobility of the future.