Struggling Danish interns? Head to Germany!
21-08-2014Cross-border Barriers
The number of young people entering higher education is increasing in Northern Germany – which is becoming problematic for the companies of Schleswig-Holstein. According to figures from July 2014, there is around 8000 apprenticeships not being filled in Schleswig-Holstein – which is almost 10% higher than the previous year. The Danish Minister for Education is now encouraging Danish youths to head across the border for apprenticeships.

Image: @Scanpix

In Schleswig-Holstein, the number of young people seeking apprenticeships is currently close to 90% lower than the actual number of available apprenticeships. According to a survey undertaken by industry and commerce, almost every fifth company is struggling to fill their apprenticeships due to a low number of applicants.

- We have to assume that this number will increase this year yet,says Hans Joachim Becker, education expert at the Chamber of Commerce Schleswig-Holstein.

The highest level of vacancies is found in professions relating to sales and retail, chef, baker, hairdressers and the service profession (hotel, catering and restaurant)

In the meantime, there is around 12.000 young Danes in need of an apprenticeship in construction, hairdressing, retail and chef training. Despite this, the number of young Danes taking the leap across the water to Germany remains low.

A challenging transition

This is not so strange, according to Svend Erik Jessen, Project Manager at CELF ( Centre for Vocational Education Lolland Falster). He claims that moving across the boarder is likely to give rise to some complications, making it challenging for youngsters.

This is why CELF has recently initiated a pilot project in order to assess how to identify and solve the problems keeping young people from going for German internship.

Svend Erik Jessen points to cultural differences between the two countries as one of the obstacles stopping Danish adolescents from seeking an internship south of the border. He points to independence as one factor, claiming that Danish students are normally encouraged to use their own initiative and running with an idea, whereas German students and companies are accustomed to telling students what to do to a larger extent. 

Another major barrier is the financial situation, as a student in apprenticeship in Germany is usually only paid half the amount as her/his Danish equivalent. This is something that the local councils of Lolland-Falster is trying to change, by offering young Danish people taking up an apprenticeship in Germany a monthly allowance of 1200 Danish kroner - an arrangement which Falster and Guldborgsund municipality is planning on adopting.

Whilst the Ministry of Education and Research does not have any figures showing the amount of Danish students completing apprenticeships in Germany, CELF says that 13 out of their 3000 students have done so.

Danes encouraged to head to Germany

The Danish Minister for Education, Christine Antorini, encourages more young Danish people go to Germany to find an internship:

- They find an apprenticeship, as well as international experience, she said to the Danish newspaper Avisen.dk back in February 2014.

Whilst Danish vocational schools embrace her statement, they are still sceptical, with the Chairman of the interest group for Danish Colleges, Peter Amstrup, saying that he only knows of very few students taking internships abroad.

Training Centre South (EUC Syd) has operations in Haderslev, Aabenraa, Sønderborg and Tønder close to Germany. But only five out of their 2,300 students have internship in Germany. Their director, Finn Karlsen tells dr.dk that he believes the language barrier to be the biggest obstacle.

A changing trend

However, both EUC Syd and CELF say that they have seen a growing interest in German apprenticeships after Antorinis call earlier in the year.

- Previously, there was not enough focus on the opportunity - but now we've been approached by blacksmiths, mechanics, masons, designers and chefs, all interested on going South, says Svend Erik Jessen to Avisen.dk.

Finn Karlsen, agrees, adding that:

- We see a growing interest amongst students. And for the first time we've had a German employer coming to us, looking to fill an apprenticeship, he says.

He acknowledges that the school has previously not been good enough to inform their students about the German alternative.

EUC Syd has already made contact with the Chamber of Commerce in Flensburg to pave the way for more Danish apprenticeship south of the border, and is keen to introduce courses in technical German in subjects where German internships are particularly in demand, says Avisen.dk.