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Made in Germany

Education and Training

45 young Germans from the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern are doing vocational training courses that take place in both Germany and Poland. Such cross-border training remains something of a rarity.

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First day at work: Enrico Haack and his new boss in Szczecin

"Here in the Pasewalk area, right on the Polish border, we have one of the highest unemployment rates. It's difficult to find a job," says Enrico Haack, who is on his way to a Polish company where he is doing work experience as part of his training course. In northeastern Germany one in four people are unemployed. Many young people have left the region and gone to western Germany.

But Enrico Haack decided to stay and he's casting his gaze eastwards. Just across the border is the Polish city of Szczecin. When Poland joins the EU in May, this industrial city could be transformed into a regional economic centre.

Properly qualified skilled workers are in demand in Szczecin and Enrico Haack is willing to try his luck. He's in the third and final year of a mechatronics course - a relatively new training category in German that will qualify him as a combination of electrician and mechanic.

For two years he learned how to work with metal, construct electrical circuits and write computer programmes. Part of the course involved study at a technical college in Szczecin. Now, he's going to beapplying his skills in work experience with a Polish company.

The company makes pipes for heating systems. Enrico Haack will first design the duct systems on the computer. "As a mechatronic engineer I can do everything here. I can work on the bending gauge or the spot welder. When I'm qualified I can use all the equipment in this room," the 18-year-old trainee says enthusiastically as he casts his glance across the workshop floor.

One problem is the language. Enrico has been learning Polish as part of his course but it's still not good enough to cope with technical discussions about heating systems. "But when I start looking for a job here, I'll do an intensive olish course and if I'm living here my Polish will improve quickly," he says.

In the meantime, he and his boss communicate in English. The company owner is enthusiastic about the bi-national training course: "This kind of cross-border exchange is great because both sides can learn a lot about each other."

Jerzy Razka, head of MK-Kaminsysteme, sees cross-border trade as the future of his business: "We already have customers in Germany. In the future I hope to be able to find skilled workers with whom we can operate on the German market." In a year's time, Enrico Haack will be looking for a job - in Szczecin.