German Provinces Struggle to Lure Skilled Workers

Headhunting in the Euro Crisis – Published on Spiegel Online International, by Guido Kleinhubbert, August 14, 2012. (Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan).

Provincial Germany has many booming regions that are suffering from a shortage of skilled workers. Now, companies are hoping to benefit from the euro crisis by attracting personnel from Southern Europe. But many young people prefer to go to hip Berlin, despite the lack of jobs there. The provinces, it seems, are just too boring … //

… Creating a Welcoming Culture: … 

  • Other German regions are also courting young people from the European Union’s crisis-ridden countries. Companies are looking for engineers and other graduates, as well as bricklayers, electricians, welders and caregivers. “In fact, almost all industries, especially small and mid-sized companies, are desperate for new employees and trainees,” says Norbert Czerwinski, a human resource development expert in the southwestern city of Mannheim. Unless countermeasures are taken, the Rhine-Neckar region of southwestern Germany could see a shortfall of about 35,000 skilled workers by the end of 2013. Workers from Southern Europe are in demand in booming towns like Villingen-Schwenningen and Schwäbisch Hall. Unfortunately, these are place names that mean almost nothing to people in Spain and Portugal.
  • To raise awareness of the labor shortage, German industry representatives and politicians have given talks at schools and universities in Barcelona and the northern Portuguese city of Porto, invited journalists from Portugal on exploratory trips to little-known German regions, and taken out ads in Greek newspapers to tout the benefits of living and working in smaller German cities and rural areas. The Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA) even published a guideline for business owners on the subject of creating a “welcoming culture,” while municipalities have studied ways to integrate the new arrivals from the south.
  • “Because of our activities abroad, citizens have often accused us in recent weeks of putting too little effort into providing training positions and jobs to Germans,” says Dirk Lüerssen. “But that’s not true.” His organization advertised jobs at trade shows in the northern port city of Bremerhaven and other cities with high unemployment, but with little success. People under 25, says Lüerssen, are “extremely inflexible.” Many, he says, are unwilling to move even relatively short distances, especially if it involves relocating to rural areas.

It Takes Time: … //

… Language Barriers:

  • The language barrier still deters many Spaniards, Greeks and Portuguese from embarking on careers in Germany. Although the Goethe Institute reports a rise in attendance at its German courses, English is significantly more popular among Southern Europeans.
  • The International Placement Services (ZAV) of the German Federal Employment Agency has seen a noticeable increase in immigration from the crisis-ridden countries of the EU, and yet far more people have come to Germany from Poland, the Czech Republic and other Eastern European countries.
  • In May, the number of Spaniards, Greeks, Portuguese and Italians working in Germany increased by about 28,000, a rise of about 6.5 percent, to roughly half a million. Meanwhile, Eastern European workers, who have been permitted to accept jobs throughout the EU without restrictions since 2011, have seen their numbers in Germany go up by 94,000 (36 percent) in the same time period.
  • Major German companies listed on the DAX-30 blue-chip index, like BASF, Deutsche Bank, Bayer, Lufthansa and Daimler AG, concur that they have not received significantly more job applications from Southern Europe within the last year. Berlin, on the other hand, attracts more Southern Europeans, says ZAV Director Monika Varnhagen, but unfortunately there are far fewer jobs in the German capital than in smaller cities and rural areas.

Persuasive Powers: … //

… Too Boring: 

  • This was precisely the problem in Düren, a town near Aachen in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Local companies had invited Spanish trainees, including a group from Seville, to complete training programs in the area. The employers were enthusiastic about the trainees, including Javier Saintmartin, 26.
  • But when he completed the training program, Saintmartin, like his fellow Spaniards, turned down the job he was offered as an automobile mechanic. “The coworkers are all very nice,” he wrote in his farewell note. But, he added, in Düren people ate dinner at 6 p.m., and there was almost nothing going on after 8 o’clock.
  • Under those circumstances, he preferred to stay in Seville. He is now working as a garbage collector there.

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