Ferdinand von Steinbeis
Ferdinand von Steinbeis is considered the posthumous patron of vocational training in the former German state of Württemberg. It was Steinbeis who founded vocational schools throughout the state, educational establishments such as the weaving schools in Blaubeuren (1852) and Reutlingen (1855). Steinbeis appealed unrelentingly for two-way – or dual – education. He considered the aim of education was to provide the qualified industrial workers of the future with a solid theoretical grounding in combination with practical, on-the-job skills. As head of the Central Office for Trade and Industry in the middle of the 19th century, Steinbeis was working on concepts that were destined to form the backbone of business-related technology transfer. Long after he walked the corridors of German industry his concepts are still in place today.
Ferdinand von Steinbeis was born into a vicar’s family on 5 May 1807 in Ölbronn, a small community outside Maulbronn east of Karlsruhe. At 14 he embarked on an apprenticeship at a smelting works in Wasseralfingen. Three years later he registered at the University of Tübingen to read Natural Science. As early as the age of 20, Ferdinand Steinbeis received his doctorate after submitting a public paper on glass-making. The same year, he took on his first role as a steelworks clerk at the Royal Württemberg Works in Ludwigstal outside Tuttlingen. In 1831 he was appointed Head of the Royal Steelworks by Prince Karl Egon of Fürstenberg.
In 1842, Steinbeis became Director-General of the ironworks owned by the Stumm family in Neunkirchen. During his time at the company, Steinbeis took it upon himself to train the people working for him. To prevent talented employees being tempted away by the competition, he invested much time and thought in establishing social support at the ironworks. This included a support fund for workers in need, a disability fund for people unable to work, a works doctor, a works canteen and financial support in buying a home.
In 1848 the "Central Office for Trade and Industry" was founded with the aim of promoting the interests of trade and industry. Steinbeis was appointed Technical Counsel with the title and rank of Councillor. In 1855 he was appointed Director and subsequently he became President.
In 1878 Steinbeis was lambasted by the entire Chamber of Representatives for opposing the introduction of protective import duties. He began to withdraw from his public duties more and more. In July 1880 his retirement request was approved.
Ferdinand von Steinbeis died on 7 February 1893 in Leipzig and was buried in Ulm.