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Bachelor’s and master’s graduates – what really counts is individual aptitude

Ravensburg-based Vetter Pharma GmbH has been constantly growing over the last few years; the company took on 300 new staff in 2011 and plans to recruit 350 more in 2012. The company is desperately looking for qualified young people to help manage its growth. In what way does this impact on job opportunities for bachelor’s and master’s graduates? In the following interview, Christiane Priebe, Director of Human Resources at Vetter Pharma, talks about recruitment criteria, further training options and the company’s dual study programme.

Christiane Priebe, Director of Human Resources at Vetter Pharma, talking about opportunities for bachelor’s and master’s graduates in her company. © Vetter Pharma GmbH

BIOPRO: Your company has shown strong growth over the last few years. Can you tell me more about how this came about and what the consequences are for graduate recruitment? How many new positions will be available in your company in 2012 and 2013?

Christiane Priebe: Yes in fact we’ve recruited a lot of new people over the last few years due to rapid growth in the company. We’ve recruited a lot of bachelor’s and master’s graduates; 30 in 2012, and I believe that it will be more or less the same in 2013. In cases when we need to recruit extra staff for our specialist departments, we prefer to take on people who have done their practical training or degree thesis in our company. We also use standard methods of recruitment as well as trying to attract young people from other regions to the Upper Swabian and Lake Constance area. When you go home in the evening you are living in a place where many people choose to come on holiday. Isn’t that a nice thought?

What are your requirements in terms of staff recruitment? How do bachelor’s, master’s, diploma and doctoral students fit in? Is the actual degree more important or are personality and expert knowledge more crucial aspects? 

For me, a good to very good degree, a person’s expert knowledge and how they will fit into a certain job are all very important. We run assessment centres to determine students’ suitability for particular roles within our company. We also organize interview panels with people from different departments, including the human resources department. 

What is the most frequent degree among your applicants? What kind of jobs do you offer for people with bachelor’s, master’s, diploma and doctoral degrees? Do you offer any particular further training options for people with bachelor’s degrees?

We receive equal numbers of applications from people with bachelor’s, master’s, diploma and doctoral degrees. We train and recruit people for almost all sectors within the company, and in particular the fields of quality assurance, quality control and pharmaceutical production. In some sectors of the company we train our own bachelor’s students, but we also externally recruit people who have done their bachelor’s degrees elsewhere. The students that we train ourselves have outstanding experience in how Vetter works; they have been trained in project management and have already supervised their own projects. People with bachelor’s degrees that we recruit externally are given in-depth training in company processes and are also offered English and communication courses.

The new study programmes are expected to be more practice-oriented and to place greater emphasis on key qualifications. Are there differences between bachelor’s and master’s graduates on the one hand and diploma graduates on the other? Has the implementation of the new system led to an increase in demand for work placements?

Bachelor’s graduates do not usually have the same practical experience as master’s or diploma graduates. Three years are just not long enough to follow the same in-depth training. Master’s graduates are usually given professional and practice-oriented training, part of which is the master’s thesis they have to do. In my experience, diploma and master’s graduates from technical universities are very similar when it comes to professional and technical knowledge. Another important factor is the technical priorities of the university where they have studied, as well as the university’s research priorities, professors and lecturers. And to answer your last question, the demand for work placements is increasing, as Vetter requires all new staff to already have in-depth practical experience. An alternative to such work placements is what is known as “Duale Hochschule”, a university of cooperative education which combines scientific studies with on-the-job-training within a company.

Does the rapid growth of Vetter Pharma mean that you are having to recruit graduates who then require specific in-house training?

Yes! As Vetter is a contract manufacturer that supplies the pharmaceutical industry, all new employees need to undergo in-depth training in the pharmaceutical processes that we apply throughout the company. 

If you had the choice would you rather recruit diploma or master’s graduates?

I do not believe that there are any major differences between the two when students come from good universities. But it always depends on the field of study as well. In the end, it is the individual that makes the difference!

The photo shows a number of Vetter Pharma's apprentices, bachelor’s, master’s and diploma graduates. Continuous growth has meant that Vetter Pharma has had to recruit increasing numbers of new staff.
Continuous growth has meant that Vetter Pharma has had to recruit increasing numbers of new staff – apprentices, bachelor’s, master’s and diploma graduates. © Vetter Pharma GmbH

The implementation of the bachelor’s and master’s system was intended to make degrees compatible throughout Europe and make it easier for students to study abroad. How important is a student’s international experience for you? Are you happy with what you see in this respect? In view of the compatibility of study systems in Europe, would you consider hiring more foreign graduates?

As an international company, Vetter attaches great importance to students’ international experiences and good command of the English language that they gain during work placements, for example. Vetter is also open to foreign students from both Europe and other countries. 

Was the shift to the bachelor’s/master’s system advantageous for Vetter Pharma or would you have preferred to retain the former degree format?

Vetter has adapted very well to the new degree system. We usually look at an applicant’s individual suitability and their abilities. We know that bachelor’s graduates usually require further training. Bachelor’s graduates that we recruit can do further professional training that gives them a greater insight into the pharmaceutical, technical and economic processes our company applies.

Are bachelor’s graduates well trained for the challenges they face in a company like Vetter or do they require further ‘refining’ in that you would advise them to go on to do a master’s degree to improve their chances of getting a job at Vetter?

I think they are well prepared to tackle the challenges in our company. However, as I said before, they receive specific training that builds on their existing abilities. As a matter of fact, master’s graduates are not absolutely ready either for all the challenges that may arise. They also often require further qualifications. When we advise students to go on to do a master’s degree we would also recommend them to do their studies part-time alongside the in-house practical training, rather than studying full-time for a master’s degree.

You also offer students a dual course of study, combining practical vocational in-house training with a bachelor’s degree. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this compared to a bachelor’s or master’s degree course at a university?

The practical component is the pivotal issue for us. When we recruit a bachelor’s graduate, we prefer students who have undergone training at a university of cooperative education that combines scientific studies with on-the-job training in companies. When we recruit a student who has graduated from a university or university of applied sciences, we attach great importance to the number of practical internships the student has done. However, what is most important of all for us is an applicant’s personal suitability, i.e. whether the candidate fits into Vetter and vice versa.

Further information:

Vetter Pharma-Fertigung GmbH & Co. KG
Schützenstraße 87
88212 Ravensburg
Tel.: +49 (0)751/ 37 00 - 0
Fax: +49 (0)751/ 37 00 - 40 00
E-mail: info(at)vetter-pharma.com

Website address: https://www.gesundheitsindustrie-bw.de/en/article/news/bachelor-s-and-master-s-graduates-what-really-counts-is-individual-aptitude