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Chancellor Defends Apprenticeship Penalty Plan

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has defended plans to penalize businesses that fail to offer young people apprenticeship spots. Following high-level talks with economic representatives in Munich on Friday, Schröder said companies were currently not doing enough to ensure that all young people available for apprenticeships were being given the chance to do one. But the president of the German Federation of Industry (BDI), Michael Rogowski, criticized the planned penalty as "bureaucratic misdirection." Rogowski believes that industry can solve the problem of insufficient numbers of traineeships on its own. But with Schröder's government planning to implement the penalty system in the fall, time is running out. In an interview with the Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper, the deputy chairman of the metal workers' union IG Metall, Berthold Huber, said the penalty plan should not be seen as an instrument of force, but simply as a means of ensuring that there are enough apprenticeship places to go around.