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Skills for new opportunities

Germany is committed helping young people access practical training in their own countries of origin so they can become valued professionals at home or in Germany.

Klaus LüberKlaus Lüber, 08.12.2023
© picture alliance/Oberhäuser

For young people in Turkey, completing your high school diploma puts you on a conveyor belt towards university. “Academic education is highly valued here,” says Oya Dinçdoğdu. On the one hand, that’s no bad thing, but many businesses are critical. “School leavers may have all kinds of theoretical knowledge, but they have next to no experience of how to use this in practice,” Dinçdoğdu explains. “Here it is quite rare to find a connection between theory and practice as you would in German vocational education.”

Oya Dinçdoğdu is working on changing that. As a skills expert at the AHK Turkey, the German-Turkish chamber of industry and commerce, she is calling for a two-track vocational education system which follows the German model. She also advises businesses, schools and university on how to create the necessary structures. Her job is funded through the Skills Experts programme of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action.

Auszubildende in Schlosserwerkstatt
Germany is providing support to numerous countries to set up two-track vocational training systems which link theory and practice. © picture alliance/Oberhäuser

Building links with Germany’s jobs market

Every year since 2017 the Skills Expert initiative has helped ten German Chambers of Commerce Abroad to expand activities linked to vocational training. The project focuses on the needs of German companies in Turkey and their local business partners. Dinçdoğdu and her team at AHK Turkey joined the programme in January 2023. They are testing the potential for preparing foreign skilled workers to make the switch to the German labour market. They are also adding extra modules to the curriculum which are targeted at showing equivalence with German reference careers. “That means young people in Turkey not only get a high-quality practice-oriented vocational qualification in Turkey, but that same qualification is their link to the German labour market.

Depending on their chosen direction of travel, young people have good prospects with German companies in Turkey. If on the other hand they want to make their career in Germany, their qualification will make it easy for them to gain a foothold there. “Turkey has huge demographic potential,” says Dr Thilo Pahl, head of the AHK. Twenty million young people in Turkey go to school compared to Germany’s eight million – and the two countries’ populations are roughly the same.

The aim is for businesses in Germany to benefit from the programme, along with migrants themselves and their home countries as well.
Andrea Milkowski, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

Skilled workers from Brazil and North Africa

The situation is similar in Brazil, whose “demographics are marked by high population growth, low standards of education and a low average age,” as Barbara Konner explains. Konner runs the AHK São Paulo which, after AHK Turkey is Ger­many’s second Chamber of Commerce Abroad which is participating in the Skills Experts programme and focusing on recruiting skilled workers. “At AHK São Paulo we want to make a proactive contribution to overcoming the challenges which are associated with demographic developments in Brazil,” she says. Much like in Turkey, vocational education in Brazil has tended to be focused on schools and universities. In partnership with the vocational college at Colégio Humboldt, a German school abroad, students can now access targeted qualifications and a two-track education.

Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action is not the only government actor in Germany which is campaigning to promote regular migration for work purposes. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development is running the THAMM Project (“Towards a Holistic Approach to Labour Migration Governance and Labour Mobility in North Africa”), which works with EU partner institutions in North Africa to place apprentices and skilled workers in jobs in Germany. “The aim is for businesses in Germany to benefit from the programme, along with the migrants themselves and their home countries as well,” says Andrea Milkowski from GIZ, which is delivering the project. “On the one hand they get the opportunity to work in Germany while also improving their chances in the jobs markets at home.”

Deutschkurs für Ausländer
Numerous projects provide German courses and training to ensure migrants have the language skills and cultural understanding they need to make a successful start in Germany. © picture alliance/Westend61

Language course and intercultural training

GIZ is working closely with government ministries and employment agencies in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia and with the Federal Employment Agency in Germany. The first step involves the Federal Employment Agency and local agencies selecting candidates and putting them in touch with companies in Germany. Support for the young people continues after they get to Germany, such as through introductory workshops and consultations. In the period since 2020 THAMM has helped 700 potential jobseekers from 3 countries to prepare for migration, such as by offering language courses to B1 level and intercultural training. Within Germany the project has thus far placed 412 apprentices and skilled workers in training positions or employment.

The state of Thuringia is also targeting recruiting workers to the skilled crafts and trades with its EU-funded CRAFT project. As part of the project, the Erfurt Chamber of Commerce is helping businesses find trainees and skilled workers internationally. CRAFT is focusing on Vietnam, Georgia, Moldova and Kazakhstan. Young people aged between 18 and 27 get the chance to apply for an apprenticeship or even for a job businesses in Thuringia. Places on the scheme are awarded in partnership with vocational and language schools, secondary schools and universities, and with government ministries and embassies in the applicants’ countries of origin.

The success of international training initiatives like Skills Experts, THAMM and CRAFT depends on levels of awareness and acceptance for dual two track training options in the countries concerned. With this in mind, the APAL project focuses on building training partnerships in Latin America so as to intervene at an early stage and inform young people about this career pathway. APAL prepares school students and alumni of German “PASCH” schools abroad from El Salvador and Mexico for two-track training in Germany. PASCH is an initiative by the Federal Foreign Office in cooperation with the German Central Agency for Schools Abroad, the Goethe-Institut, the German Academic Exchange Service and the Educational Exchange Service. Since 2021 PASCH, the Goethe-Institut Mexico, the Federal Employment Agency and hospitals in various German cities have worked hand-in-hand with APAL. The programme provides skilled nurses and workers in medical technology careers.