On Tuesday morning, 11 October, nine foundry technician trainees at Vald. Birn in Holstebro received a real surprise.  They were surprised by the management from both Vald. Birn and Holstebro Education Center, who informed them that their apprenticeship employer had been named Innovative Apprenticeship Employer of the Year – a title for which the students had themselves nominated Vald. Birn. 

At the Nordic region’s largest foundry group Vald. Birn’s factory in Holstebro, they handle around 50,000 tonnes of cast iron goods annually.  The vast majority of the steel scrap is purchased in the national market, but lately Vald. Birn has not had to buy so much as usual. 

The reason is an optimisation project on circular economy, created by Kim Kunstmann, foundry technician apprentice at Vald. Birn.  Vald. Birn is the only foundry in Denmark to add briquettes to its melting iron.  The briquettes consist mainly of tyre wire and cast iron shavings, which would otherwise have to be disposed of, and have so far accounted for just under 15 per cent of the annual quantity of iron at the factory in Holstebro. But Kim Kunstmann has now succeeded in increasing this quantity to as much as 25 per cent.

“Our technical foundry manager and I have often discussed how many briquettes you can use in the melt, and this was actually how the project started. For example, we’ve examined the composition of the briquettes and also taken the melting analysis and the quality of the iron into account,” he says about the project.

“I was basically given free reins by Vald. Birn, and I even got two experienced melt technicians to help and advise me.  It has been absolutely fantastic to feel the great support for the project.”

The massive support was one of the reasons why Kim Kunstmann chose to nominate the foundry group for the award as Innovative Apprenticeship Employer of the Year, which it has now won.

“One of the results of the project has been that we today buy all tyre wires in Denmark that would otherwise be deposited in landfills. So, in addition to being good for the environment, the project is also good business for Vald. Birn,” says Kurt Bjarne Larsen, Metallurgy Manager and Head of Apprenticeships, and he continues: 

“I’m very pleased with the title, as I see it as an expression that our apprentices are happy to be here. We’re also very happy to have them. Because, in addition to their innovative mindset and high vocational level, they are also just a good bunch, all of them. They are absolutely amazing to work with, and they all make me incredibly proud.”

Finalists for national title
With the award, Vald. Birn is now among the finalists for the Innovative Apprenticeship Employer of the Year for the whole of Denmark.  The national award is given at the final in Copenhagen on Wednesday, 2 November. Holstebro Education Center has named Vald. Birn Innovative Apprenticeship Employer of the Year in their local area.  This was announced earlier today when Vald. Birn's foundry technician apprentices were surprised by the management from both Vald. Birn and Holstebro Education Center.  

“We appreciate when companies support and allow their apprentices to experiment and make use of their skills and competences in a busy everyday life. Vald. Birn has succeeded optimally in this.  Therefore, we are pleased to be able to name them Innovative Apprenticeship Employer of the Year,” says Jan Lillelund, Head of Education at Holstebro Education Center, about the motivation for the award.

Also Claus Beier, Group Chief Executive Officer at Vald. Birn, is extremely pleased with the title.  He hopes that it will help put more focus on not just Vald. Birn, but the entire foundry industry, as a good and exciting place to work: 

“The whole industry is currently struggling to attract qualified labour, and we’re doing a lot to help attract new students to, for example, the foundry technician programme. The award is therefore a huge pat on the back, as it shows that we’re heading in the right direction. Especially as we have been nominated by the apprentices themselves, and I’m very proud of that,” he concludes.

For further information, please contact:

• Group CEO, Claus Beier, Vald. Birn A/S, mobile 2923 1227 and e-mail: cbe@birn.dk
• Press service: Anders Bo Andersen, mobile 2869 8307 and e-mail: anders@publicity.d

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