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Why young foreigners choose Germany

European politicians of all hues have heaped praise on the German apprenticeship model. The Local's Patrick Reilly meets young Swedish jobseekers ready to head south for a salary, despite the language barrier.

Why young foreigners choose Germany
Apprentices from Spain, Sweden and across Europe are all heading to Germany where there is a shortage of workers. Photo: DPA

On a snowy January day, the waiting room of the Malmö branch of the Swedish Public Employment Service is curiously quiet. A group of young people are inspecting their CVs ahead of a presentation entitled ‘The job of my life’.

Berlin and Hamburg are calling for a number of young Swedes who, fed up of being unemployed back home, are tempted by Germany’s apprentice programme. The scheme offers not only a salary, but free German lessons.

Germany’s apprentice scheme has been lauded for keeping youth unemployment low, and has been cited by Sweden’s Finance Minister Anders Borg as something his own government should try to emulate.

In Sweden, almost 20 percent of those aged between 15-24 cannot find work. In Greece and Spain it is one in two. But at 8 per cent, Germany's youth unemployment rate is the lowest among EU countries making it a tempting location for the young and jobless.

In late 2012 Germany signed a deal with six EU countries – Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Slovakia and Latvia – to introduce Germany’s apprenticeship model to their countries.

It also made it easier for young people to find employers in Germany with the aim of setting up 30,000 exchanges. 

And its strong economy has turned Germany into an immigration country. The number of foreigners living in Germany grew at its fastest rate for 20 years in 2012 and now stands at a record level of 7.2 million.

But why Germany?

“Why not? There is nothing for me here in Sweden,” Molly Stigsson, 24, from Halmstad, western Sweden, tells The Local. "So many people my age are all fighting for the same jobs."

Stigsson studied journalism and photography but has struggled to find work since completing her studies. She admits that she’s been unemployed on and off for the past five years and wants to try something else.

“I’m applying for some baker and pastry chef positions as that's been a dream of mine. Going to Germany seems exciting to me,” she says, having ruled out going back to school in Sweden. 

Chef Robin Hermansson, 21, travelled from Linköping, southern Sweden, for his interview and says he has been out of work since last March.

“It’s tough to find work in Sweden for my profession. I’m here partly because of the job situation in my own country but also because this is an amazing opportunity,” Hermansson says enthusiastically.

Pitching the ‘Job of my life’ is Eures (European Employment Agency) adviser Annette Zellmer. She says that Germany is “desperate” for apprentices in part because of the country’s low birth rate.

Attracting Swedes to Germany is not a new idea for Eures. A previous apprentice scheme failed as only candidates who could speak German were able to apply.

Now the language barrier has been removed, with mandatory lessons included as part of the training. The move has seen an upturn in interest from job-seeking Swedes. 

Carpenters and bankers

“This is company-based education that lasts between two and half and three years. By coming to Germany, you can add to your reputation and develop further in your career,” Zellmer tells the young Swedes during the presentation.

The programme, which is funded by the German government until 2016, wants to find apprentices aged between 18-35 to work in industries as diverse as carpentry and banking.

Eures has calculated that there are 348 different occupations potentially available, with similar apprentice schemes for job-seekers from Portugal and Spain proving successful.

“Sweden looks very seriously at youth unemployment as the figure is quite high. Any chance to go abroad for work and education is encouraged as it’s a fantastic opportunity. Swedes adapt quite easily to Germany and have a good reputation there,” Maria Bergström, a Swedish Eures adviser, tells The Local. 

Removing barriers

Getting to grips with the German language is key for any wannabe apprentice. Following the failure of the previous scheme, Eures has pulled out all the stops with an estimated 600 lessons (each lasting 40 minutes) to be completed by August 1st by the candidates.

Under a special arrangement with Sweden, the first 400 lessons can be studied online from home, with the remaining classes to be finished in Germany. For most Swedes, it will be their first exposure to German. Indeed, many of those who attended the presentation in Malmö have never even been to the country before. 

“I’m a bit nervous about it as I don’t know any German at all but I am going to try to learn,” says Stigsson while Hermansson says “It’ll be fine… I think.”

And if any of the Swedes were under the impression they could cruise through the lessons when they move to Germany, such thoughts were swiftly extinguished by Eures’ German adviser.

“You can’t sit around and look out the window. When it comes to school exams you have to pass them,” Zellmer says matter-of-factly.

Funding for the language course is part of the modular programme, which also covers the cost of living. The most any apprentice can earn is €818 a month, but that amount can be reduced depending on accommodation costs.

While many expats to Sweden may be surprised to learn there isn’t a washing machine provided when handed the keys to a flat, in Germany you’ll have to do without a fridge and oven too when you move into an apartment.

“A typical German flat is basically empty but the employer helps the apprentices find furniture. And as part of the programme there is social assistance to help with things like opening a bank account and making friends. You are treated just like any other German apprentice,” says Zellmer.

Swedes who are successful and complete the first two phases of the programme, which includes the 600 language lessons, are then eligible for a vocational training contract with a German company combining work and studies, which can last up to three and a half years

One Swede eager to make the move is Zlatan Mukladzija Kemal. He took a six-hour train trip from Borås on the west coast in order to come to Malmö for his 30 minute interview.

“Had this scheme been around a few years ago I would have gone then,” Mukladzija Kemal, who has previously worked in the hospitality sector, tells The Local. After sitting through the one-hour presentation the 21-year-old is even more determined to fulfill his German dream. 

"I’ve been in Sweden most of my life and I’m a bit bored of it," he says. 

And unemployed skilled workers from other areas of Europe are also being sought out by recruiting programmes to plug shortages in the German workforce.
 
A scheme started in 2012 by the Chamber of Crafts for Munich and Upper Bavaria aimed to put Spanish semi-skilled workers in touch with Bavarian employers in need of labour.
 
"Given the high youth unemployment in Spain at the moment, there was this idea that there are a lot of people in Spain who could do the work, [and] we have a lot of companies that need to fill their vacancies," Elisabeth Kirchbichler, one of the coordinators of the program, told Spiegel in May 2013. 
 
Kirchbichler said that officials from the local chamber of commerce in Cordoba, Spain had given her over 1,000 job applications from Spanish people who wanted work in Germany.
 

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WORKING IN GERMANY

EXPLAINED: The 25 most in-demand jobs in Germany

For those considering relocating to Germany - or looking for a new profession - here are the most in-demand jobs out there, according to a study by LinkedIn.

EXPLAINED: The 25 most in-demand jobs in Germany

Germany is desperate to fill jobs. In autumn last year, authorities said there was a shortage of 390,000 skilled workers. 

The new government plans to ease red tape and overhaul immigration policies to make it easer for non-EU nationals to come to the country. 

READ ALSO: What Germany’s coalition proposals mean for citizenship and immigration

But many people already within Germany might also be thinking about a change of career, or pivoting to a related sector, especially after the Covid pandemic changed the world of work. 

For those who are curious, international job search engine LinkedIn has published a list of jobs that are in-demand in Germany. Although lots of positions in Germany require that you speak German, many companies are international and encourage English speakers to apply.

What is the list?

The so-called LinkedIn Jobs in Trend 2022 list shows the 25 occupations that have grown the most over the past five years compared to other other positions. 

The list “allows insight into how the job market is evolving and the long-term opportunities it presents – whether you’re looking to change careers, re-enter the workforce or upskill for future challenges,” said LinkedIn. 

It’s based on LinkedIn data between January 2017 and July 2021. 

READ ALSO: How to boost your career chances in Germany

Here is the list of the top 25 positions, including the core skills required for each and the desired amount of experience for candidates according to LinkedIn.

In some of the descriptions below we haven’t translated the job name  to German – that’s because it is usually advertised in Germany with the English name.

1. Consultant for the public sector (Berater*in für den öffentlichen Sektor)

Responsibilities: Advising public and government institutions on the modernisation and digitalisation of administration and infrastructure

Most common skills: Public Policy, Management Consulting, Policy Field Analysis

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Hamburg and Munich areas

Average years of experience: 2.8 

2. Product analyst (Produktanalyst*in)

Responsibilities: Product analysts use metrics to evaluate a company’s products to determine whether they meet current and future market needs

Most common skills: Tableau, Google BigQuery, SQL

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Hamburg and Munich areas

Average years of experience: 3.7 

A man at his home office desk.

A man works at his ‘home office’ desk. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sina Schuldt

3. Business development specialist or consultant (Beschäftigte in der Geschäftsentwicklung)

Responsibilities: Business development employees develop companies, enter new markets and evaluate sales opportunities

Most common skills: salesforce, account management, inside sales

Top regions hiring in: Berlin Munich and Frankfurt areas

Average years of experience: 3.3

4. Sustainability manager (Nachhaltigkeitsmanager*in)

Responsibilities: Sustainability management employees are based in corporate social responsibility (CSR) departments and look after the social, environmental and economic aspects of a company

Most common skills: Sustainability reporting, corporate social responsibility, life cycle assessment management

Top regions hiring in: Munich, Berlin and Hamburg areas

Average years of experience: 3.8

5. Cyber Security Specialist (Cyber Security Spezialist*in)

Responsibilities: Unlike IT security, cyber security is not limited to the environment of your own company, but also keeps an eye on wider threats from the internet in order to ward off viruses, Trojans or ransomware

Most common skills: ISO 27001, Security Information and Event Management (SIEM), vulnerability assessment

Top regions hiring in: Munich, Frankfurt and Cologne-Bonn areas

Average years of experience: 7.1

6. Developer for machine learning (Entwickler*in für maschinelles Lernen)

Responsibilities: Machine learning developers create so-called artificial intelligence. They research and design models and algorithms that enable machines to recognise patterns in large volumes of data, among other things

Most common skills: TensorFlow, Python (programming language), Keras 

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Munich and Cologne-Bonn areas

Average years of experience: 3.3 

READ ALSO: Working in Germany – 7 factors that can affect how much you’re paid

7. User Experience (UX) Researcher

Responsibilities: User experience researchers find out what users need and want and prepare these findings for developers, marketers, designers and others

Most common skills: Usability testing, design thinking, human-computer interaction

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Munich and Cologne-Bonn areas

Average years of experience: 4.6

8. Real estate finance specialist (Spezialist*in für Immobilienfinanzierung)

Responsibilities: Real estate finance specialists accompany and advise clients from the initial property enquiries stage to closing the deal and agreeing on financial arrangements

Most common skills: Construction financing, finance, sales

Top regions hiring in: Munich, Frankfurt and Hamburg areas

Average years of experience: 5.3

9. Head of Public Affairs (Leiter*in Public Affairs)

Responsibilities: Public affairs is the strategic aim to integrate the interests of the employer into political decision-making processes. Also known as lobbying, the job description should not be confused with public relations (corporate communications)

Most common skills: Politics, international relations, strategic communication

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Munich and Cologne-Bonn areas

Average years of experience: 7.2

10. Information security officer (Beauftragte*r für Informationssicherheit)

Responsibilities: Information Security Officers protect data in analogue and digital form. To do this, they ensure that sensitive data is only accessible to authorised persons at all times.

Most common skills: ISO 27001, Information Security Management System (ISMS), data protection management

Top regions hiring in: Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin areas

Average years of experience: 10.2

11. Specialist in talent acquisition (Spezialist*in für Talentakquise)

Responsibilities: Talent acquisition specialists identify suitable job candidates and take care of the strategic development of the Talent Acquisition department

Most common skills: Employer branding, sourcing, talent management

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt areas

Average years of experience: 3.8

12. Expansion manager

Responsibilities: Expansion managers accompany the growth of companies and take care of things like the purchase or leasing of business space in optimal locations

Most common skills: Business development, marketing, strategic planning

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Düsseldorf and Munich areas

Average years of experience: 5.7

13. Test engineer (Prüfingenieur*in)

Responsibilities: Cars, wind turbines, lifts, amusement park rides and countless other technical constructions must be regularly checked for safety. This is where test engineers come into play

Most common skills: LabVIEW, Matlab, electrical engineering

Top regions hiring in: Munich, Hamburg and Tübingen areas

Average years of experience: 4 

14. Marketing (Marketingmitarbeiter*in)

Responsibilities: Marketing employees (Associates) support the planning and implementation of marketing activities for companies and organisations

Most common skills: Social media marketing, online marketing, content marketing

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Hamburg and Munich

Average years of experience: 2.7

15. Data engineer (Dateningenieur*in)

Responsibilities: Data engineers deal with the collection, processing and checking of data

Most common skills: Apache Spark, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Apache Hadoop |

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Munich and Cologne-Bonn areas

Average years of experience: 4.8 

16. Personnel officer recruiting (Personalreferent*in Recruiting)

Responsibilities: Recruiters use job advertisements and various channels to search for suitable candidates for open positions in the company and personally recruit suitable candidates

Most common skills: Active sourcing, e-recruiting, employer branding

Top regions. hiring in: Munich, Berlin and Cologne-Bonn areas

Average years of experience: 3.3 

A woman sits at a desk.

Are you looking for a chance in career? Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Finn Winkler

17. Manager in strategic partnerships (Manager*in Strategische Partnerschaften)

Job Purpose: Strategic partnerships managers are responsible for building and maintaining relationships with business partners to further the development and distribution of their own products and services

Most common skills: Business development, account management, product management

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt areas

Average years of experience: 6

18. Head of Software Development (Leiter*in Softwareentwicklung)

Responsibilities: Software Development Managers are responsible for all stages of software application development. They control and structure planning, organisation and execution

Most common skills: Agile methods, cloud computing, product management

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt areas

Average years of experience: 12.2 

READ ALSO:

19. Data science specialist

Responsibilities: Data science experts or data scientists help companies to make data-based decisions. They build a structured database from raw data, analyse data and prepare it with business background knowledge

Most common skills: Python (programming language), R, SQL

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Munich and Hamburg areas

Average years of experience: 3

20. Robotics engineer (Robotik-Ingenieur*in)

Responsibilities: Robotics engineers develop and programme robots and other intelligent assistance systems, whether for medicine, gastronomy, or future cars.

Most common skills: Robotic Process Automation (RPA), UiPath, C++ 

Top regions hiring in: Munich, Frankfurt and the Hanover-Braunschweig-Göttingen-Wolfsburg areas 

Average years of experience: 3.8 

21. Investment associate (Investmentmitarbeiter*in)

Responsibilities: Which areas are worth investing in, which companies are suitable for takeover? This is checked by investment managers through market observations, financial modelling and due diligence procedures

Most common skills: Private equity, corporate finance, mergers & acquisitions (M&A)

Top regions hiring in: Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin areas

Average years of experience: 2.7 years

22. Chief Information Security Officer

Responsibilities: Many companies are not only urgently looking for information security officers (see position 10), senior positions in this professional field are also in high demand

Most common skills: Information Security Management System (ISMS), ISO 27001, IT Risk Management

Top regions hiring in: Munich, Frankfurt and Berlin areas

Average years of experience: 14.3

23. Manager in strategic sales (Manager*in im strategischen Vertrieb)

Responsibilities: Strategic Sales Managers usually look after selected target and existing customers over a longer period of time. Duties include preparing quotations and negotiating prices

Most common skills: Solution selling, business development, account management

Top regions hiring in: Munich, Stuttgart and Frankfurt areas

Average years of experience: 9.3

24. Communications manager (Kommunikationsmanager*in)

Responsibilities: Communications managers take care of PR work inside and outside a company – this includes planning communication strategies as well as implementing campaigns on social networks or organising press appointments and events

Most common skills: Strategic communication, public relations/PR, internal/external communication

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Munich and Nuremberg areas

Average years of experience: 5.4 

25. Specialist writer for medicine (Fachautor*in Medizin)

Responsibilities: Medical writers produce documents in a medical context, such as study reports for scientific journals, texts for regulatory authorities and information sheets for medicines – but also journalistic texts for websites or magazines

Most common skills: Clinical studies, scientific writing, life sciences

Top regions hiring in: Frankfurt, Berlin and Munich areas

Average years of experience: 5.2

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