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A ferry-trip towards new jobs
The young German Benjamin Knott comes from the North-East of the country, a region where unemployment rates are in some areas as high as 24%. With his background in plumbing and building design, the 25-year old had rather bad job expectations at home and therefore looked for other alternatives. He eventually found the necessary support and guidance at the Baltic Training Centre (BTC), located in the harbour city of Rostock.
This institution was established in 1999 to facilitate job mobility within the Baltic Sea region and prepare German job seekers for a career in Scandinavia and the Netherlands. Employers in both regions lack a sufficient domestic supply of qualified workers and have to look for staff abroad. The centre receives about 1,000 applications each year from jobseekers all over Germany who are motivated to explore work opportunities in Scandinavia and the Netherlands. The BTC supports this ambition by providing vocational training and preparing these workers for a job in their new host country.
The Baltic Training Centre’s work is financed by national funds as well as by the EU’s European Social Fund and Leonardo da Vinci, the European Programme for Vocational Education and Training. Cooperating with the German employment agency Bundesagentur für Arbeit, the facility functions similar to a private employment agency. It provides jobseekers with lessons in Dutch and the Scandinavian languages and coaches them in their efforts to find an appropriate job. According to Marion Weber, responsible for the Norwegian labour market at BTC, the initiative has proven to be a success: “Before the courses have finished, a majority of participants have found a job and leave Germany almost immediately to work for their new employer. Six months after the course, about 80% of the participants are still working in the country they moved to”.
Benjamin Knott, is one of 3,000 jobseekers who have participated in the project since it began. After having successfully completed the language course in Rostock, he went to Sweden for a one-week practical language training, but also for a job interview with an interim agency in Eskilstuna, about 120km west of Stockholm. “I went there full of expectations and things turned out very well”, he says. After the meeting, he went back to Germany, but “already two weeks later, the agency called and offered me a short-term job”. More than 14 months later, he is still living and working in Sweden and has managed to learn the language very well.
Every year, the BTC arranges four vocational training sessions – one per language of each host country (Dutch, Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian). During a three-month period, the 16 participants follow an intensive language course and get introduced to writing high-quality CVs and application letters. Most importantly though, they learn how and where to find job vacancies. Once the jobseekers have found a position in one of the target countries, they work for the prospective employer under a special trial contract for a three or six month period. If both sides are satisfied, the employees are generally offered a fixed contract according to national labour rules.
Benjamin’s first contact with a Swedish employer turned out very well. “I started with a temporary assignment at an industrial company for a couple of months, and then worked for two other companies”. However, he apparently made a good impression on his first employer, SHA Torshällaverken, a company located just outside Eskilstuna, because they contacted him again and this time offered a long-term contract.
The Baltic Training Centre collaborates closely with the EURES network. During the initial phase of the course, EURES Advisors from participating countries come to Rostock to inform the trainees about country-specific working and living conditions. Even though the Baltic Training Centre is responsible for the selection of participants, EURES Advisors provide the facility with valuable information about their respective labour market situations and specific requirements for qualified staff.
Benjamin obviously enjoys living and working in Sweden. “It could not have been better! I am so happy that I took this opportunity and can truly encourage others to follow”. He is currently waiting for his girlfriend to join him up North. She is studying Swedish in Germany in order to be well prepared for their future life in Sweden.