Published on Spiegel Online International, by Alexander Demling, Nov. 16, 2012.
Economic crisis and mass unemployment in Southern Europe have triggered an exodus of highly qualified jobseekers, many of whom are making their way north to Germany. There, a relatively strong economy and growing shortage of skilled workers makes companies eager to ensure that the newcomers feel welcome.
Ziehl-Abegg, a mid-sized specialist in ventilation technology based in the southwestern German town of Künzelsau, recently welcomed two new engineers from Portugal, and a third is on his way … //
… Obstacles and Trends:
Even after the hires were made, it took a while for the new foreign employees to fit in. “To begin with, our new Portuguese colleagues didn’t speak a word of German,” Grill explains. The company assigned an employee to help them get over bureaucratic hurdles and handle logistical issues, such as buying a car. Ziehl-Abegg also rents a building of apartments that it lets new employees use when they first arrive in town. “In the long run, they obviously have to find their own way, but they need a while to see what kind of apartment they can afford,” says Grill.
Despite the difficulties, Grill is confident that the investment will pay off for the company. “We want our employees to feel comfortable here,” he says. “If they don’t, we will have wasted the cost of settling them in, and they’ll disappear the minute someone offers them an extra €500 a month.”
Indeed, Ziehl-Abegg isn’t the only company benefiting from skilled workers from southern countries. In early December 2011, the Stuttgart Region Economic Developmetn Corporation (WRS) launched an initiative called “Aktion Nikolaus,” with which it invited 100 Spanish engineers to a trade fair for medium-sized industrial companies. Of these Spanish engineers, 22 have already found jobs with small or medium-sized companies in the Stuttgart region, and another 11 elsewhere in Germany. “It was a major success,” says WRS managing director Walter Rogg.
Although the initiative was planned as a one-off, Rogg is now hoping to make it a regular event. As he envisions it, the Spanish engineers will take a month-long language course followed by an internship in a company that would ideally go on to hire them.
The IAB’s Herbert Brücker believes that net immigration to Germany could top 300,000 by the end of 2012 — and that this is a good thing.
“Demographic change will hit us hard in 10 to 15 years,” he says. “Before that happens, we need to have developed the potential of our labor force.”
Still, Brücker doubts the current trend will continue. “We are in a unique situation right now,” he says. “Almost all of Europe — except for Germany — is in crisis. But it won’t stay like that.”