Labour migration New start with hurdles
Many young people from southern Europe have started training in Germany – also with German funding. What has become of the “new labour immigrants”?
Victor wants to become an electrician – about 1,600 kilometres distant from his home in Andorra. In September 2016 he began an apprenticeship at a small company in the Erz Mountains. “I want to work in Germany because it’s a leader in technology. Living here and taking all my instruction in German is the best method for learning the language.”
Stories like Victor’s could often be heard as a result of the European economic and financial crisis. Many young Europeans come to Germany to work here or to start vocational training. In their home countries they see no prospects for themselves. And in Germany there is a lack of skilled labour in certain sectors of the economy.
Many trainees in hotels and restaurantsSince 2013, the Federal Government has been funding this new form of labour migration through the programme MobiPro-EU. The aim is to bring job-seeking young people together with companies that would like to train them. To begin with, participants in the programme attend a German course in their home country – for instance, at the local Goethe-Institut. Then they do an internship at a company in Germany. In the case of mutual interest, a training contract is signed. During the period of preparation and instruction, there is financial support. The programme was designed to last for four years; the last time new participants joined it was in 2016. Time therefore to take stock. If you speak to the companies and organizations today, you learn that everyone concerned entered upon new territory with the programme, which resulted in both positive and negative experiences.
Especially for hotels and restaurants the programme has been a gain: for years they have been having difficulties finding trainees. No wonder therefore that MobiPro-EU has above all provided jobs for cooks and hotel staff. “There are a number of positive and encouraging examples in which training companies in the catering and hospitality sector and trainees have found their way to each other”, says Sandra Warden, Managing Director of the hotel and catering association DEHOGA. Without support such training contracts would never have come about, says Warden, alluding to the many small and medium-sized enterprises in the industry. “On their own, they had neither the financial, personnel nor organizational resources to look for trainees in other EU countries.”
About every third participant drops outNobody can say exactly how many young people found their way to Germany through the programme. Half way through, the four-year programme was changed. For this reason, even its organizer, the Central Agency of Foreign and Professional Affairs (ZAV) of the Federal Employment Agency, has to pass on the question about specific numbers. Observers estimate, however, that about 10,000 young EU foreigners have made their way to Germany with the aid of various funding opportunities. Most of them came from Spain.
Problems arise in everyday life. Above all, language is a hurdle – mastery of technical terms is soon prerequisite both at work and in vocational school. Many of the young adults – participants receive support only up to the age of 27 – also preferred a training place in a big city rather than in the country, where, however, there is a particularly high demand for junior staff. The exact rate of drop-outs in the programme cannot be determined, but it is estimated to be one-third.
For this reason, too, the organizers readjusted the programme. So-called “carers” have been employed to relieve trainees and companies of organizational duties and so avert premature ending of the apprenticeships. The carers will continue in their work into 2020, when the last participants will have ended their training. But even drop-outs can bring home with them an important stimulus, say participants – that of having had the experience while still young of training in which theory and practice are combined.
Entry with professional qualificationsSince 2012, it has also been made easier for immigrants with professional qualifications to work in Germany. In 2015 alone, about 15,000 Europeans applied for recognition of their qualifications, including doctors, nurses, lawyers and teachers. For a number of years now, the Federal Employment Agency has also kept a so-called “positive list”: all professions set down here may be filled by foreigners with comparatively little red tape. The range extends from metal construction and hearing aid acoustics to computer programming.
But even here the transition does not always work smoothly, as a study by the Institute of Economic Research in Cologne shows. More than half the human resources managers surveyed see the greatest obstacle in insufficient German language skills. In addition, it is often uncertain whether the immigrants in question can remain permanently in Germany. Every third company sees this as a powerful hindrance. Similarly many companies consider the accurate assessment of the qualification level of immigrants to be a problem. On the other hand, only about one in ten HR managers fears cultural tensions at work.