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Budding Careers

UZH isn’t only a place of research, but also has an important role when it comes to teaching. And this doesn’t only apply to students: Around 80 young people are receiving vocational training at UZH. We met two of them, Alessandro Savoca and Joana Hauser.
Adrian Ritter


UZH's first-ever logistics trainee Alessandro Savoca, currently in the first year of his apprenticeship. (Image: Adrian Ritter)


“It feels great,” Alessandro Savoca says proudly. He’s the University of Zurich’s first-ever logistics trainee. UZH started offering this initial vocational training at its Irchel Campus in August. Alessandro Savoca is doing an apprenticeship as a logistics specialist with a concentration on distribution, meaning he works in UZH’s in-house post office. Alessandro has known for a couple of years already that he wanted to become a logistics specialist. Many of his classmates in secondary school were also interested in this profession, and applied for positions with the Swiss Post or private-sector logistics businesses. One of Alessandro’s teachers then drew his attention to the fact that it was also possible to get this training at the University of Zurich.

After completing a three-day taster course, he was accepted as apprentice. The position is in the Procurement and Logistics office, which is responsible for handling and transporting goods and post, among other things. In his first year as a trainee, Alessandro Savoca will now learn all about UZH’s in-house postal service. He’ll sort incoming letters and parcels, and distribute them to the various departments and offices using an electric scooter or on foot. Soon he’ll also start handling outgoing mail. He’s about to receive training in operating a fork lift and once he gets his driver’s license, his list of duties will further increase. His tasks will also include working at the customer services desk in UZH’s post office and in the materials shop on Irchel Campus.

What he likes most about his first job is that Irchel Campus is like its own little village. “I like being on the move. I’m not the type who can spend a lot of time sitting at a desk,” he says. After only a few weeks, he already knows Irchel Campus so well that he’s comfortable giving new students directions to the right buildings.

After the three-year apprenticeship, Alessandro Savoca can imagine staying on as a logistics specialist – or transferring to Security Services. While he’s the first logistics specialist trainee at UZH, he certainly won’t be the last. The Procurement and Logistics office wants to establish three apprenticeship positions in total – with one trainee each per year.

Helping to create new knowledge: Lab technician Joana Hauser, in the first year of her training. (Image: Adrian Ritter)

A history of training

The Department of Chemistry has a long history in taking on apprentices and has trained chemical laboratory technicians for decades. Lab technicians plan and perform experiments for the department’s research groups and are thus involved in supporting research. At UZH, the three-year apprenticeship is offered with a concentration on synthetics; in other words, the training focuses on developing new substances. Irchel Campus has had its own teaching laboratory since 2007, which can also be used by trainees who aren’t members of UZH. This is where the trainees learn about the devices and methods they need for their jobs.

UZH simultaneously trains six young lab technicians. Joana Hauer, who started her training in August, is one of them. The TV sitcom The Big Bang Theory was one of the main factors in sparking her interest in the natural sciences during secondary school. When it came to deciding which line of work she wanted to pursue, Joana completed taster courses as a laboratory technician in five different research institutions and pharma businesses. The one offered by UZH was her favorite, not least because it allowed her to get to work in the lab herself. Size is another of UZH’s advantages for her as a trainee, since it means that she can learn about a very wide range of devices and equipment.

Distilling, extracting and chromatography – Joana is quickly becoming familiar with concepts that in most people will only elicit vague memories of their time at school. She particularly likes the international atmosphere of her workplace on Irchel Campus: “I look forward to being able to use my English skills as part of working in a research group.”

Above all, however, she enjoys the fact that her work as a lab technician allows her to work with her hands while at the same time helping to create new knowledge. She can therefore also imagine going on to study chemistry after completing her apprenticeship.