Germany struggling to fill tens of thousands of trainee jobs

Up to 40 percent of traineeship positions are currently going unfilled in Germany, a new study suggests.

Hard-hats, hammers and nails at a university in Thuringia
Hard-hats, hammers and nails at a university in Thuringia. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Martin Schutt

Germany is suffering from a shortage of labour – with skilled workers by far the most sought-after group in Europe’s largest economy.

But a new study suggests that thousands of apprenticeships are going unfilled each year as companies struggle to find young people to train up for the future.

According to researchers at the Institute for German Economy (IW), around 63,000 traineeship spots remained empty in 2021, accounting for around 12 percent of available positions.

However, this figure only accounts for those traineeships that are registered with the employment agencies in Germany. 

“If those vacancies that are not reported to the employment agencies for a variety of reasons are also taken into account, this proportion is significantly higher at just under 40 per cent,” the IW explains.

For this reason, the institute believes that the issue is partly of the companies’ own making.

READ ALSO: Germany must remove hurdles for foreign skilled workers, says minister

It recommends that companies focus on offering more support for apprentices in their free time, support with mobility and transport and offers of housing for trainees to help make the positions more tenable for applicants.

“In future, it will be important to tap the remaining potential of young people in order to combat the shortage of skilled workers,” the IW says, adding that the issue is particularly urgent in sectors with the highest shortage of skilled labour. 

At present, companies are desperately looking for candidates before the start of the new training period.

The highest proportion of unfilled training places was in the sale of meat products, with 60.4 percent of positions currently going unfilled.

The plumbing trade (38.9 percent), catering (37.5 percent) and concrete and reinforced concrete builders (33.8 percent) also suffer from a lack of interest.

‘Republic of further education’

For Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD), this issue of skilled labour shortages is set to be a major challenge over the next four years.

“The lack of skilled workers must not become a permanent brake on growth in Germany,” he told DPA in January

Training and further education will be a “central focus” of his time in the ministry, he said.

“We are already seeing in individual regions and sectors that there is a shortage of workers and often of skilled workers,” the SPD politician said.

He said there was a particular shortage of truck drivers and of employees in the care sector. 

In order to remedy this problem, Heil wants to significantly improve opportunities for further education in Germany.

“My goal is for Germany to become a republic of further education,” he said. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Can foreigners apply for student finance in Germany?

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Major German trade union wins pay hike, averting strikes

Germany's biggest trade union agreed Friday on wage hikes totaling 8.5 percent that are expected to cover almost four million workers facing soaring inflation, averting a major strike in Europe's top economy.

Major German trade union wins pay hike, averting strikes

The deal will be closely watched across the continent, which is facing spreading industrial action as employees demand large pay increases to cope with rising costs, particularly of energy.

The agreement between IG Metall union – which represents workers in Germany’s key metal and electrical sectors, and is seen a trend setter for setting wages nationwide – was reached early Friday after weeks of talks and walkouts.

The so-called “pilot agreement” in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg, which is expected to eventually cover about 3.9 million workers across Germany, lays out how the pay increase will be introduced in two stages, in 2023 and 2024.

It also includes a €3,000 payment to combat the impact of inflation.

“Employees will soon have significantly more money in their pockets – and permanently,” said Joerg Hofman, president of IG Metall.

The union had initially called for an eight percent increase over 12 months, the biggest hike since 2008.

Its members are from a vast range of key businesses, from automotive to electronics.

Workers have been ratcheting up pressure – with demonstrations, and a series of “warning strikes” at the end of October, which are walkouts for a limited duration, which often accompany salary negotiations in Germany.

READ ALSO: German industry workers to strike from Saturday

If no deal was reached, then the union was poised to launch more serious strikes lasting 24 hours.

While companies are under pressure to hike wages to cope with rising costs, there are fears that raising them too sharply could stoke already sky-high inflation.

READ ALSO: Jobs in Germany: Should foreign workers join a union?