George wants to become a mathematician like his father, who controls on-screen data in the pharmaceutical industry. He also thinks scaffolding workers are great. The 14-year-old says he doesn’t know yet. Leah is 13 years old and likes to work in an office, earn good money and has a lot of free time. Her father is a computer scientist, and she can also imagine doing the same thing he does. All Kian knows is that he doesn’t want to be a police officer like his father. His mother is a beautician.
All three are in eighth grade at an integrated secondary school in Köpnik. In the ninth grade, there is a two-week internship for students. They say they have no idea where it will take them. Many doors open to them. If you choose dual training, you have the choice between more than 320 professions in Germany.
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The chances of finding a job are better than ever: The shortage of skilled workers is stark, there are more than 1.7 million vacancies according to the Federation of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) – and the supply in the training market is also greater than demand. Nearly 40 percent of all jobs remain vacant nationwide, according to a study by the German Institute for Economics (IW) linked to employers. The trend began already in 2013, and since then the number of vacant training positions has constantly increased.
The width is getting a bit increased, but that doesn’t solve the problem
The topic is complex, and employers have been criticized for years for providing fewer and fewer training places. In the last training year, 473,100 new training contracts had been signed by September 30. That’s 5,600 more than in the pandemic’s first year, 2020 — but 52,000 less than in 2019, according to the Federal Institute for Vocational Training (BIBB).
The fact that the supply is now increasing slightly again cannot solve the problem: fewer and fewer school graduates want to get vocational training. In the fall of 2021, demand fell to its lowest level since 1992, and according to BIBB, the figure fell by 4800 to 540900. The reasons for this are varied. Accordingly, there is no simple solution.
Many young people prefer to study. “Mismatch” is another reason. The term refers to the fact that jobs and applicants do not – or do not – meet. Many young people don’t want to be a bakery, butcher, plumber, concrete worker, or catering trader, but rather a photographer or media designer. In addition, some employers have requirements that do not always correspond to the status of the applicant.
The three students from Köpenick may not have even noticed that the Federal Chancellor is now interested in the case. Associations, ministries, unions and employers formed an alliance for training and further education last year and are trying to win young people for dual training through media events. Schulz announced this on the Allianz website.
Last week, teacher Joanna Grole sent her class from Köpnick to the talent screening department in Berlin at the Northern Employment Agency in Charlottenburg. “Because they have no idea what they can do,” she says and hopes the youngsters will leave the check with more confidence in themselves. Above all, the event is about career direction, as it is now considered one of the main levers to bring back the dramatic trend again.
Project manager Christina Brandenburg said the project, which was launched with the Berlin Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the Skilled Trades and the Berlin Senate, has been in place since September. Since opening, 2,500 students have walked through the offices of the former recruitment agency, which have been converted into “galleries” at great cost, through yellow corridors, rooms with glittering or mirrored walls and sound-absorbing carpets on the floor. They sat in front of a screen for two and a half hours and answered questions about their knowledge of German and mathematics and their preferences in a science-based career choice test for the employment agency.
We need apprentices – who else should ride wind turbines?
In a room without windows, reminiscent of a working museum, they tested how good their memory was, assigning faces to emotions, guiding a loop over a winding rod with more or less motor skill, and using programming commands to create an on-screen monkey moving toward a banana.
One of the labor market experts looking for solutions to a pressing social trainee problem is the President of the Federal Institute for Vocational Training (BIBB), Friedrich Esser. “We need interns, who will also install our wind turbines and put solar cells on the roof in the future,” he said at an event organized by the Economic Cooperation Organization (OECD). Vocational training should become more attractive and its opportunities become better known. You can also make a career and earn good money in professions. “A master’s degree is equivalent to a bachelor’s degree,” Esser says.
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However, the problem is deeply rooted in society. There is a promise of progress from generation to generation. In North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, the grandfather was often engaged in mining, the son was engaged in a “white-collar job”, for example as an industrial clerk, and the grandson is now studying business administration. Physical work is not fashionable.
Families did not yet realize the extent of modern and digital apprenticeships today, from installation jobs to the electrical trade. Esser is campaigning for nothing less than social change, for high school students to also think about vocational training. To do this, you have to involve parents and teachers in the job information, because many of them haven’t even seen the inside of the craft.
One of the talent screening rooms has colorful walls with large screens. Young people wear headphones and use hand gestures to move through different work environments, showing them, for example, the professional exercises that go into making electric scooters. The entire examination takes five and a half hours. The evaluation is done at a later time, by the employment counselor at the employment agency of the respective school.
Many young people are worried about their future career
“There is still a long way to go until the time is right,” says Kian of Kopnik. According to a survey conducted by the Bertelsmann Foundation, many young people are concerned about their opportunities in the training market and want more support. Of the 1,666 participants aged 14-20, 54 per cent say their chances have been worsened by the pandemic. And among young people with a low level of education, almost every second person had this impression. It seems that there is still a lack of information and education.