“Who invented it?” is not just a well-known advertising slogan that immediately conjures up the image of Switzerland and its innovative spirit. This is also the perfect question for the REMONDIS Group’s international trainee exchange programme. This programme is based on the Freedom of Movement Agreement, which regulates how Swiss citizens can travel to, live and work in the EU and vice versa. According to the rules, Swiss and EU citizens have the right to provide cross-border services in each other’s country for up to 90 effective working days per year. And it was this rule that led to the idea of creating an exchange programme that enables REMONDIS Group trainees to travel to Switzerland or the EU so they can spend several weeks working there.
With the final details of the programme in place, REMONDIS Schweiz AG recently welcomed the first visiting trainee to its head office in Schaffhausen. Christina Wilms, a trainee at REMONDIS PMR in the Dutch city of Moerdijk, took the plunge and spent a month in Switzerland between 03 February and 03 March 2023 so that she could get to know her Swiss colleagues, widen her horizons and get a taste for what it was like to work abroad. We met up with her to discuss how it went and to find out which trainees most benefit from such an international exchange.
REMONDIS AKTUELL: Ms Wilms, you recently spent a month working as a visiting trainee at REMONDIS Schweiz AG in Schaffhausen. How did this all come about?
Christina Wilms: It all came about thanks to the HR department in Lünen and Mariette Würmle, an employee at REMONDIS Schweiz AG. Mariette Würmle happened to mention to Nicole Mendel from the HR department that REMONDIS Schweiz would like to be more involved in the development and careers of the new trainees and could also use some support at that time for an upcoming project. I got to know about it after this suggestion ended up on the desk of my boss, Tobias Schmiemann.
REMONDIS AKTUELL: What projects and tasks did this exchange involve? What was your everyday work like?
Christina Wilms: REMONDIS Schweiz AG had set up a new business division called REMED not long ago that focused solely on managing waste generated by the medical and pharmaceutical sectors and businesses carrying out research work. REMED, however, was integrated into REMONDIS’ subsidiary CHIRESA AG on 01 April 2023. This meant that the clinics, laboratories and doctors’ surgeries etc who had been customers of REMONDIS Schweiz AG had to be informed about this change.
My task was to help the REMED team to communicate different subjects. For example, I created data sheets about different products, bins and containers and contacted the manufacturers to get suitable images from them as well as to get their permission to use them in REMED’s customer documents. What’s more, I also altered presentations and letter templates to ensure they met the CD guidelines, helped to compile letters to the suppliers and customers and prepared lists for standard letters.
Besides focusing on communications, I was also given the opportunity to go to a number of customer appointments with my colleague Kristin Doppelreiter, who was responsible for the project and for me during the four weeks I was there. This meant I could get to see the sales side of the business up close.
REMONDIS AKTUELL: What similarities did you notice in the work culture between your work ‘at home’ and in Switzerland?
Christina Wilms: What struck me in particular was just how much importance was put on the colleagues working together and helping each other – and this is something that is true for my work at REMONDIS PMR as well. Both the colleagues at REMONDIS PMR and at REMED are involved in the decision-making processes and are encouraged to put forward their ideas and suggestions. Generally speaking, the way the colleagues interacted among themselves there reminded me of my work ‘at home’. Each and every person is considered to be a fully-fledged member of the team and is treated with respect and is valued accordingly.
What’s behind the international trainee exchange programme?
The Freedom of Movement Agreement between Switzerland and the EU regulates how Swiss citizens can travel to, live and work in the EU and vice versa. This means that Swiss and EU citizens have the right to provide cross-border services in each other’s country for up to 90 effective working days per year – creating the basis for the international trainee exchange programme.
- REMONDIS Schweiz AG offers trainee programmes that last 30, 60 or 90 days
- The working relationship between the employee taking part in the exchange programme and their employer remains unchanged throughout their time abroad and the employee continues to be covered by the social insurance system of their country of origin
- The local branch organises accommodation for the visiting trainee for the whole of their stay
“It’s also become very clear just how important it is to build up a network of contacts within the company. I believe it is of great value and extremely useful – and for every trainee’s future, not just mine – to get to know other business activities and the people working there.”
REMONDIS AKTUELL: What particular insights have you brought back with you?
Christina Wilms: One thing that I’ve noticed during my as yet relatively short time at REMONDIS – and during my time in Switzerland in particular – is that patience is an important asset. It is inevitable when a large number of people work together on a project that there will occasionally be differences of opinion and that these will result in delays. I’ve also learned that the first approach you take is not always the right one and that several different ways have to be tried out to discover which solution is the best.
It’s also become very clear just how important it is to build up a network of contacts within the company. I believe it is of great value and extremely useful – and for every trainee’s future, not just mine – to get to know other business activities and the people working there. That’s the only way to know who to contact if you have a problem or who to get in touch with to swap information about a project. Opportunities such as working for a few weeks in Switzerland are, of course, great for this.
REMONDIS AKTUELL: Who’s best suited to take part in this international trainee exchange programme?
Christina Wilms: Well, it really depends on the project. I would say, though, that trainees with a commercial background are particularly suited to such an international exchange as we can be placed in a variety of departments and have gathered (basic) knowledge of a whole range of business areas from our university courses. This opportunity to spend time abroad is certainly very attractive for trainees who, like myself, are studying International Business.
Finally, I would very much like to thank all those involved once again for making it possible for me to travel to and work in Switzerland. I hope that many other trainees will have the opportunity to go abroad in the future and help their REMONDIS colleagues on various projects.
Image credits: image 1: Adobe Stock: Huebi; image 2: REMONDIS; image 3: iStock: JohnGollop; image 4: Adobe Stock: Brilliant Eye