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Germany: Experienced workers return to desks

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The goal of retraining programs

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<p> photo by Patrick Junker/The New York Times </p>
<p><em><strong>The New York Times</strong></em></p>
<p>When Emrullah Karaca started working at a factory in the town of Gifhorn, where the German company Continental makes automotive equipment, he was looking for a temporary job after high school.</p>
<p>At least two decades passed in which he built his career at the factory. and last year father-of-three Mr Karaca learned that Continental plans to close the plant by 2027. Facing a grueling job-hunting process, he will return to the desks to get a vocational training diploma, which his employer will cover. </p>
<p>This is a necessary step if he wants to find a job in Germany, where despite a desperate shortage of skilled workers, degrees and diplomas are still valued more than actual work experience. “I've never needed it until now because I've always been there,” at the factory, Mr. Karaca said.</p>
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Emrullah Karaca (photo Patrick Junker/The New York Times)

The training program, which will be attended by he and 80 of his colleagues are part of a Continental initiative aimed at helping workers acquire the skills needed in new positions, either at Continental or in local businesses.

In 2021 Continental joined a group of 70 companies – including Bayer, DHL, Infineon and Siemens – that formed the Alliance for Opportunity, an initiative aimed at keeping the 2.7 million workers they employ all together.

Germany has lagged behind other countries in automating industry, and as its manufacturing struggles to pick up pace, the country is facing thousands of layoffs in the auto and engineering sectors, even as at least 700,000 jobs across the manufacturing sectors remain vacant.

“These are basically the conflicting priorities we have now: On the one hand, layoffs combined with difficult staff adjustment processes, and on the other hand you have a shortage of staff,” said Jutta Rump, director of the Institute of Labor and Employability in Ludwigshafen.

In Gifhorn, where Continental makes certain auto parts, the company saw demand falling and energy costs rising, making it clear that the plant would soon be unsustainable.

So the future of Mr Karaca and around 800 other workers is uncertain. “We all thought we'd be here until retirement,” he said.

German companies have a tradition of social responsibility, and Continental's leaders fully understand the role the factory plays in the community of 41,000, where it was the third-largest employer.

“There were two possible options: Either you do it the classic way — and classic means a lot of loud strikes, union politics and political involvement,” said Ariane Reinhart, a member of Continental's executive board who helped found the company's training center in 2019. “Or you find a new way of doing things”.

Germany prides itself on its educational programs, which are offered through a dual system, combining written exams and practical experience. About 330 occupations require a vocational qualification, and anyone without one is more or less left out, regardless of the skills they may have acquired on the job.

Training programs, such as those offered by Continental and other members alliance, they receive the support of Berlin and local authorities. Last year, the government pumped at least 3 billion euros into companies to offer education and training programs for workers who are about to lose their jobs.

Mr Karaca, who has a child in university and two in school, said that despite his disappointment that his time at the company is coming to an end, he is grateful for the opportunity to find a new job.

“I have to be able to prove what I can do,” he declared.

Source: www.kathimerini.com.cy

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