Recruiting Skilled Workers Abroad
“We regard integration as a very individual process”

Dr René Herrmann, CEO of the Vivantes Forum für Senioren GmbH
Dr René Herrmann, CEO of the Vivantes Forum für Senioren GmbH | Photo (detail): © X21de Reiner Freese

In Germany, there is a shortage of skilled workers, especially in the field of healthcare. To fill the gaps, Vivantes Forum für Senioren GmbH in Berlin decided to look for employees abroad as well – in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut. CEO Dr René Herrmann provides insights into this process.

Vivantes Hauptstadtpflege (Vivantes City Care) has been working with the Goethe-Institut Vietnam on a programme to recruit Vietnamese care workers since 2015. What was the motivation for you to organise the recruitment of care workers from abroad?

Dr René Herrmann: The number of people in need of care is increasing in Germany from year to year, whereas fewer and fewer people are choosing a career in the care industry. The need for qualified care workers is therefore continually increasing and the search for care workers in Germany is becoming more and more difficult. Up-and-coming staff are few and far between, and the need for them cannot be covered through the recruitment of apprentices in Germany. Vivantes Forum für Senioren GmbH has taken on the urgently needed responsibility of recruiting foreign care workers for apprenticeships as qualified nurses and for professional recognition in Germany. 

What are the advantages of deliberately targeting care workers abroad?

Dr René Herrmann: The advantages arise through the collaboration between our professional and reliable partners on site and our own recruiting team who already get to know the applicants in their land of origin. The recruiting team represents the employer, introduces the future field of work in geriatric care and gives an overview of the comprehensive process that lies ahead for the participants. This personal interaction between employer and future employee creates trust and forms the basis of the integration process for us.

How can foreign skilled workers be successfully integrated and committed to working in Germany on a long-term basis?

Dr René Herrmann: The job interviews that take place with our recruiting team in the land of origin, if the pandemic situation allows, lay the cornerstone for the personal link to Germany. In the next step, the project partners on site put in a great deal of work. They are not only responsible for the linguistic qualification but prepare the participants intensively for living and working in Germany. Employer-relevant topics are also incorporated into the curriculum, in close cooperation with the language school, to prepare the participants for their work in geriatric care in Germany in the best possible way. 
With us, the participants arrive in small or larger groups – no-one has to travel on their own. The participants find this very helpful because it means that they can support each other, particularly at the beginning. The new care workers and apprentices live and work in shared apartments and receive plenty of support from the project team when they start. Our colleagues are available to answer all questions about living in Berlin and give regular information via ZOOM meetings and by email about important topics such as radio/TV licence, waste separation, leisure activities, public holidays etc.
In collaboration with IQ Netzwerk, we regularly carry out digital workshops on integration-relevant topics such as insurance policies, contracts, looking for an apartment etc. where necessary.
If integration is to be successful, all parties must be involved; the permanent staff and practical training coordinators in the institutions play a major role here. If the new colleagues are welcomed in an open and friendly way in their living accommodation and receive support when starting their working lives, it goes a long way to ensuring successful integration.
Integration also means learning intercultural skills; both sides are prepared for this task with respective well-founded training seminars and courses.
We regard integration as being a very individual process. Cultural and linguistic assimilation is easier for some people and more difficult for others. In our experience, the better and more intensively the participants are prepared in their own country, the easier it is for them to integrate later.

What role does knowledge of the German language play here?

Dr René Herrmann: “Language is the key to the world” is a famous quote of Wilhelm von Humboldt.
In our experience, too, good language skills make integration easier, so we very clearly focus on learning German during the preparations in the participants’ home country. After being selected, the participants start the language course at a qualified language school selected by the project team in advance. The aim is to achieve B2 level in the home country.
We continue to offer online language courses after the participants have arrived in Germany, where we focus on occupational language training. The participants continue to receive support in their everyday lives. They meet regularly with the training coordinators in small groups to discuss and practice specialist terminology.

In the field of recruitment of care workers from abroad, there are unfortunately also companies who bring workers to Germany under unfair conditions. What can be done to stop these problematic practices?

Dr René Herrmann: We are very proud that we have recently been awarded the “fair recruitment in the care sector” seal of quality. The seal of quality is a state award of the Federal Republic of Germany that is regulated by legal stipulations.
It offers the future care workers the security of a fair and secure process.