Paul Hediger spent four years training as a panel beater at Automontage Schinznach. The apprenticeship made his dream of working in the car industry come true.
Mr Hediger, when were you working at Automontage Schinznach?
Paul Hediger: My apprenticeship as a panel beater at Automontage Schinznach was from 1966 to 1970. During the first nine months, we learned the fundamental metalworking techniques at the Othmarsingen technical-vocational school. Once every process had been explained at length in theory, we got to practise and apply these techniques extensively in excellently equipped workshops.
What exactly did you learn during your apprenticeship that you later used at the assembly plant?
Marking, punching, sawing, filing, drilling, reaming, welding, soldering, flanging, folding – and these are only the most important steps. Quite unusually for the time, we were allowed to go to the nearby football pitch twice a week to exercise during our working hours in those first nine months.
How did you find your way to AMAG?
I was absolutely determined to find an apprenticeship in the car industry. My neighbour, Willi Seiler, worked at the local car assembly plant back in the day, and he was the one who told me about the apprenticeships in Schinznach. We had to sit an entrance test, and between 15 and 18 apprentices were taken in every year. They all had to pass a three-month trial stage first.
What was special about your work?
I loved how varied our apprenticeship was. After the first nine months at the technical-vocational school, we were transferred to the assembly plant in Schinznach-Bad, where we had the opportunity to work in every area of the car production process: the body shop, painting, seat-making, logistics, mechanics, and the workshop that took care of maintaining all the machinery. We all spent a couple of weeks or month at each stage.
What are your fondest memories?
When we were done at the assembly plant, we went to the Birrfeld repair centre, where we finally learned about the nuts and bolts of fixing bodywork. After all, we had all become apprentices because we wanted to repair cars that had been in an accident. Some of my former colleagues still believe that this aspect was neglected. But I disagree. The nine-month basic training at the technical-vocational school was fantastic, and I reap the benefits to this day. Our stint at the assembly line was unforgettable, too. Not many people can say they’ve played a part in producing classic American cars like the Chrysler Valiant, Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda, can they?
How did your career path continue after your time at Automontage Schinznach?
After my apprenticeship, I initially stuck to my training occupation. I worked at various body shops, where I learned to make car bodies from scratch and paint cars. Later, I took over the management of the body and paint shop of today’s AMAG in Dulliken. I communicated with claims professionals from various insurance companies every day during that time. We would negotiate repair solutions and costs for damaged cars with them, and I represented the interests of the repair shops and the clients. When I was about 32, I switched sides and became a vehicle expert with Winterthur Versicherung, as it was called back then. A few years later, my new employer entrusted me with exciting managerial responsibilities within the insurance business. So I’ve been very close to the car industry and, in particular, the bodywork sector throughout my working life.