Vocational Training in Germany
The Mobipro-EU Programme

Master craftsman Maik Steinmetz with Spanish apprentice Ronny Andrango
Master craftsman Maik Steinmetz with Spanish apprentice Ronny Andrango | Photo (detail): © Julius Lukas

Young people in many European countries are unable to find a place on a vocational training scheme, yet companies in Germany are desperately seeking young apprentices. A programme has been set up to bring the two sides together, though it has not been without its problems.

Why Germany? This is an easy question for Ronny Andrango to answer: “Because I want to help my family and earn my own money”, explains the young Spaniard from Madrid. He is standing in the apprenticeship workshop at the supra-company Construction Training Centre in Holleben, a small town in the state of Saxony-Anhalt – Ronny has already been here for two months now. Together with 15 other young Spaniards he is learning the basics for his future career as an industrial lagger. It will take him three years to complete his apprenticeship.

Win-win situation

“The lads are highly motivated”, says master craftsman and instructor Maik Steinmetz, standing next to Ronny. He has just been showing the boys from Madrid which markings to apply to a “V”-shaped piece of metal. Ronny appears attentive and eager to learn; it is clear that he sees his apprenticeship in Germany as a great opportunity. In the summer of 2014, almost 54 percent of young people in Spain were unemployed. The number of youngsters without a job in Europe as a whole is estimated to be 7.5 million. Many of them have to live off their parents as there is little chance of them being able to embark on an apprenticeship. The situation in Germany could hardly be more different, with around 33,000 apprenticeship places remaining vacant in 2013. “We are desperately in search of young people”, agrees Maik Steinmetz. 

Ronny and his 15 compatriots came to Germany with the Mobipro-EU programme, which was initiated in 2013 by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs: if apprenticeships are scarce in many European countries but Germany needs to recruit young trainees, the simple solution is to bring the two sides together – Mobipro creates a win-win situation.

200 applications

The programme, which was launched under the title “The Job of my Life”, pays up to 90 percent of the costs incurred by any European youngster between the ages of 18 and 27 who begins an internship or apprenticeship in Germany. Expenses for accommodation, language courses and trips back home are also reimbursed. To qualify for the programme, however, the young people have to find a company willing to take them on as an apprentice. In the case of Ronny and his fellow apprentices, this was the G+H Insulation Group with over 40 branch offices in Germany. Gerd Buczek is HR director at G+H and as such responsible for the young apprentices. “For the past three or four years we have been having great difficulties filling all our apprenticeship places”, he explains. G+H is keen to employ 48 apprentices each year, but applicants from Germany can only be found for around half this number nowadays.

The Mobipro programme came at just the right time for the company. “When we heard about it we signed up immediately”, says Buczek. G+H also offers youngsters a tempting package in financial terms: apprentices are paid 690 euros per month in their first year of training, 1,060 euros in their second and 1,336 euros in their third. Recruitment of young Spaniards began in 2013 via the German Chamber of Commerce in Madrid. The response was overwhelming: “We received 200 applications for 24 places”, Buczek explains. 

Considerable interests

The success story at G+H is by no means an isolated case, as became abundantly clear in April 2014 when the Mobipro initiative had to be completely stopped. 9,000 applications had already been submitted for 2014 and the 45 million euros earmarked for the programme’s budget had already been spent. Applications were piling up at International Placement Services (ZAV), the authority responsible, and did not get processed for ages. In addition, there were reports of the programme being abused in some cases: agencies were indiscriminately bringing young Europeans to Germany who did not even have any confirmation of funding and whose hopes of an apprenticeship and work in Germany were disappointed.

New funding regulations have therefore been in force since July 2014: application for funding is no longer submitted by the apprentices themselves, but by a project administrator. “The administrative workload has increased as a result”, says Gerd Buczek. G+H has engaged the Holleben Construction Training Centre as its project administrator so that it can again obtain funding for 24 Spanish apprentices in 2015. HR director Buczek can offer them excellent prospects: “We only train the number of young people we actually need”, he explains. “Everyone who completes the apprenticeship is guaranteed a job at the end.” Of course, it will then be up to the Spaniards to decide whether they really want to remain in Germany long-term. “So far, all of them have said that they do”, says Buczek. He hopes that the youngsters will not have changed their minds by the time they have completed their apprenticeships in three years’ time.