Frank-Juergen Weise (L) chief of the Office for Migration and Refugees federal labour office and German Education Minister Johanna Wanka address a news conference in Berlin, Germany, February 5, 2016 (Photo: Reuters)
The German government and the country's skilled craft sector on Friday launched an initiative to offer 10,000 refugees on-the-job training places as the shortfall in qualified workers in Europe's biggest economy continues to grow.
The German education ministry and the national Confederation of Skilled Crafts, or ZDH, said in a joint statement that they would offer apprenticeships to 10,000 asylum-seekers between April 2016 and April 2018.
The candidates should be aged at least 25 and have a strong chance of being granted asylum, the statement said.
In concrete terms, the scheme, which is backed by the Federal Labour Agency, will offer language lessons and initial qualifications and also provide the refugees with a chance for short-term work experience in a business.
"On the one hand, we have a sector with a large need for qualified labour, but on the other, people who don't yet have the qualifications" to fill the vacant positions, said labour agency chief Frank Weise.
The agency would help make a "preliminary selection" of possible candidates, with regard to their qualifications and previous experience, and would provide advice and support during the length of the programme, Weise told a joint news conference in Berlin.
Germany took in around 1.1 million asylum seekers in 2015, around half of whom were younger than 25, said education minister Johanna Wanka.
At the same time, nearly 40,000 apprenticeship places remain unfilled in Germany, casting a shadow over its much-prized apprenticehip system which combines both theoretical lessons and on-the-job experience.
The skilled crafts and manual labour sectors are particularly feeling the pinch from the lack of suitable candidates.
Weise said it was important that the newcomers familiarise themselves with the German apprenticeship system, in order to prevent them from throwing in the towel early on and looking for quick ways to earn money in unqualified work instead.
"We have a lot of explaining work to do," he said, adding that it should also be made clear to young women right from start that they, too, can participate in the scheme.
The education ministry is making available 20 million euros ($22 million) for the scheme.