Germany targets new skilled workers, but international grads key


Germany targets new skilled workers, but international grads key


Germany is aiming to attract skilled workers from around the world to fill shortages gaps in the country’s labour market.

Photo: pexels

A 2020 survey found that 60% of overseas students hope to stay in Germany

The Fachkräfteeinwanderungsgesetz continues on developments on the Skilled Immigration Act, in force since March 2020.

Three pillars – skilled labour, experience, and potential – seek to assist qualified workers in non-regulated professions, those with employment contracts in non-regulated professions and a points-based system for those not yet with employment contracts.

Through the means of the rule, the government also said it is “particularly committed to ensuring that more third-country nationals come to Germany for training or study and then work as skilled workers in Germany”. It also hopes that a new Digital Campus will help to attract international students and smoothen the process of preparing to study in the country.

“To be able to compete for talent and auxiliary workers, we are offering new, and more importantly, more straightforward ways to work in Germany,” said federal labour minister Hubertus Heil.

The EU Blue Card – Europe’s equivalent of a US Green Card – will see existing salary thresholds lowered and “more attractive conditions will be created for new entrants”.

The skilled labour pillar also aims to make vocational training or to study in Germany “more attractive”.

“Unfortunately, the notion that all the skilled workers in the world want to come to Germany per se is an illusion,” Heil added.

Germany is looking to collaborate with partner countries on labour migration. A recruitment strategy will target certain countries, but the ministry did not expand on which countries will be targeted.

“We urgently need more bright minds and hands, also from abroad, for growth and prosperity,” added Bettina Stark-Watzinger, federal minister of education and research.

The law will “simplify access to the German labour market”, she continued.

“In the future, skilled workers with a degree and professional experience will also be able to enter the country without a recognition procedure. We are expanding the possibilities for recognition procedures after entry and offer incentives for this.

“And we want to work with the federal states and chambers to speed up and simplify recognition. We will also strengthen educational migration by making it even more attractive to come to Germany to start vocational training or study and to stay here after graduation.”

Germany’s foreign minister Annalena Baerbock recently visited India, where she signed a mobility agreement to “make it easier for our people to study, do research and work in the other country”. The trip comes on the back of a partnership, announced earlier this year, on migration and mobility.

Included in the agreement are the Academic Evaluation Centre in New Delhi, an 18 month extended residence permits to students, 3,000 annual job seeker visas, “liberalised short stay multiple entry visas and streamlined readmission procedures”, the ministry said.

“The India-Germany Migration and Mobility Partnership is part of overall efforts to create a network of agreements with prospective labour market destination countries with twin objectives of creating of favourable visa regime for Indians towards accessing the labour market of these countries,” the Ministry of External Affairs added.

India has recently signed significant agreements with Australia and the UK.

The Bundesagentur für Arbeit (Federal Employment Agency) – responsible for the “professionalisation of recruitment from abroad” and fair migration and in partnership with third countries, said the continuation of creating mediation agreements with “suitable partner countries” is key.

The teaching of German language skills is also vital for the overall success of the policy, according to the government.

DAAD welcomed the skilled worker policy, describing it as the “right step that policy-makers are focusing more strongly on the great potential of international exchange students and graduates of German higher education institutions as skilled workers of the future”.

Approximately 350,000 international students attended German higher education institutions during the 2021/22 academic year, an 8% increase from the previous year.

“The vast majority of these young people are highly qualified, familiar with the German culture and have acquired language skills,” DAAD president Joybrato Mukherjee said.

International students are often studying high-demand disciplines from the STEM field, and surveys have “shown that many would like to live and work in Germany after graduating”, Mukherjee continued. A 2020 survey found that 60% of overseas students hope to stay in Germany.

“We as a society should make far better use of these opportunities. The new paper published by the Federal Government points out the right levers in this respect.

“In order to keep the most brilliant minds in Germany, we need to improve the general conditions for recruitment and higher education preparation and offer more services to help international exchange students enter the German labour market.”

Recent analysis found that Canada and Germany lead over their competitors in international student retention.

German Association for International Education (DAIA) also welcomed the initiative.

“We very much hope that this new impetus will not see the academic pathway to migration sidelined. We think Germany should extend the existing program that grants work permits to recent non-EU graduates of German HEIs,” chair Martin Bickl said.

“Not only are these graduates highly skilled but they have also formed a strong bond with their host country, its language and work culture – invaluable assets that increase the chance of a good fit between vacancy and candidate. In essence, we hope this new initiative will complement rather than replace existing academic pathways to permanent residency. Anything else would seem like a quick fix rather than a sustainable strategy,” he told The PIE.

“Germany can definitely learn a lesson or two from our antipodean friends”

“Australia has pioneered the university pathway to migration, and Germany can definitely learn a lesson or two from our antipodean friends. Not only does this pathway provide extremely well-qualified graduates for the national economy but it is also a great asset for promoting academic programs to prospective students.”

Graduates of German universities are more grounded in society, and most likely to stay on and be successful in their jobs, he added.

“In an ideal world, Germany would produce enough and the right kind of graduates to fill its vacancies, but as we have been seeing for decades this simply isn’t happening.”

Bickl also called for greater policy alignment across Germany.

“We’ve often had a situation over the last 20 years where the federal level has been promoting skilled immigration whereas many local authorities aliens’ departments (Ausländerbehörden, which are tasked with implementing the policy on the ground) have been struggling to follow suit as many are understaffed and overwhelmed.

“We definitely need to get all local authorities on board if we are to not only recruit but retain skilled migrants.”

Gerrit Bruno Blöss, CEO of Study.eu, warned that simplifying the process to work in Germany with degrees from other countries could have an adverse effect on interest in German qualifications.

“Access to the German labour market through the relatively generous graduate visa is one key driver for student interest in Germany. If a German degree is no longer necessary, student interest might decline; likely particularly for masters degrees at private universities that charge fees,” he suggested.

“It’s possible that semester exchange students can now more easily come back to Germany”

“Such institutions will need to put more emphasis on the value of their education in terms of employability. At the same time it’s possible that semester exchange students can now more easily come back to Germany. How this plays out in practice will ultimately depend on the details of the law.”

Blöss also suggested that universities could address language barrier issues by making German lessons more prominent in their education, including for students enrolled in English-taught programs, and embedding internships and corporate projects to allow students to make valuable connections.

Doing so could improve dropout rates among international students, which are generally higher than for German students, he said.

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