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Business

Industry Association Appeals for More Traineeships

In the face of an unprecedented crisis, the Association of the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce is mounting an offensive, appealing to companies to offer more training positions.

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Many job trainee candidates won't be as lucky as this electrical engineering trainee.

Facing the prospect that tens of thousands of school graduates will be unemployed this Fall, German industry leaders on Monday called on companies to create traineeship positions where none existed before.

More than 70,000 young people who chose to apply for a traineeship with a German company rather than go to college, will be left out in the cold come this September, according to recent estimates by German Economic Minister Wolfgang Clement. That's almost 14 times the amount at the same time last year, when 5,378 were unsuccessful in securing a spot.

In response, the President of the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Ludwig Georg Braun, announced in an interview with the mass-circulation daily Bild on Monday that his organization was taking steps to create thousands of new trainee positions by the end of the year.

"This is a signal to the young people: The year is not yet over, and we still have a chance," said Braun. "The German industry will stand by its responsibility to train young people for work -- also at a time when companies seem to collapse every fifteen minutes." The dual system at a crossroads

For years, German's so-called dual system has served as a model for many countries. The trainee program, an apprenticeship track that marries practical training with additional theoretical classes, serves as an alternative for young people who don't want to go apply to university. The program offers a road into the working world and provides employers with highly skilled workers.

But as Germany struggles with slow growth and high unemployment, the number of applicants has simply outpaced the number of available positions. The government will have to find creative solutions, urging more German companies to create training programs through a mix of incentives and punitive measures.

Tough measures in tough times

This past weekend, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and economic minister Clement joined the call for an increased commitment from industry, with the latter threatening companies that don't take measures to offer more training positions with punitive measures, including fines.

As of June, there were 175,000 applicants who had yet to find a position, compared to 161,000 at the same time last year.

Günter Lambertz, the coordinator for training at the DIHK, told DW-WORLD that the summertime blip in un-placed candidates usually subsides by the end of the Fall.

But this year poses a particular challenge and the hole is not expected to close completely. Clement expects the number of candidates to climb as high as 70,000. Lambertz says it's going to be more like 30,000.

"We belong to the optimists," he said.

Asking companies to take on trainees

An umbrella organization of 82 industry and trade organizations from across the country, the DIHK is appealing to companies that have, until now, not offered training programs. In addition to asking them to rethink their policy, the organization is offering to help companies design training programs and build contacts to local vocational schools.

Braun said his organization had thus far been in touch with over 300,000 firms and he was quit confident that by the year's end over 10,000 new training programs would go into effect, yielding more than 18,000 new positions.

The number should climb even higher if industry associations can convince 300,000 companies that currently don’t offer any traineeships to climb on board.

Major obstacles to the system remain the costs involved. According to a recent study by the Ministry of Education and Science, companies pay €3,241.59 per trainee, with the figure climbing higher for technical and industrial fields. Lambertz, of the DIHK, says companies should be given more freedom in decisions such as payment and how long to keep their trainees.

The point was echoed by Dieter Hundt, the president of the German Organization of Employers, who told German television on Sunday that if companies are to offer more positions, they should have the ability to reduce compensation, thereby reducing costs.