German Craftsmen Head to England | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 11.03.2006
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German Craftsmen Head to England

Preparations are already underway for a trade fair in Birmingham to bring together the highly valued skills of the German master craftsmen with the lucrative opportunities in the British construction industry.


A building boom in England is drawing German craftsmen

Hardly anyone moves to England for the weather, but German workers and craftsman can capitalize on the building boom across the Channel. The German construction industry has stagnated for years, but the demand for housing, with projections of at least 30,000 homes to be built per year over the next 20 years in Britain, is tremendous, according to Bettina Hansmeier, a spokeswoman for a lobby representing craftsmen in the industrial state of North Rhine-Westphalia. In addition, the Olympic Games will be held in London in 2012, creating even greater demand, added Hansmeier.

Last September, the special interest group the GermanMaster Craftsmen pulled together a band of 10 trade associations in order to facilitate entry into the British construction market and promote German attributes, such as the high quality of workmanship.

"German craftsmen have a very, very sound level of training. We have the Meistertitel, or Master certificate, a designation, which doesn't even exist in England. Then there are German qualities, such as punctuality, reliability, and exactness, which are also vital, and the Brits know that we can be counted on," said Hansmeier.

Baustelle Eisen für Betonwände p178

Germans possess qualifications that don't exist in England

At the end of April, the German MasterCraftsmen will set up an exhibit at the trade fair Interbuild in Birmingham under the motto "Together, We're Stronger."

How to attack

Preparations are already underway for the fair, according to Hansmeier, who meets with prospective companies at least once a month. Presentations, flyers in both English and German, as well as an Internet page will be set up including tips and advice on what the Germans can expect in a foreign market.

"We'll start with -- how can I attack the market, how do I get a contract, so a joint exhibit should prove helpful. Then there are hurdles, such as customs, taxes, registration, and even cultural barriers," said Hansmeier.

Andreas Thiele, managing director of E & E Fertigteile GmbH and a GermanMaster Craftsmen member, knows first hand about the cultural differences, having once worked for an English firm.

"There's a different kind of honor code there. The spoken word is taken much more seriously in England. We Germans tend to be overly legal with everything spelled out in written contracts, after consulting three lawyers. Over there, a handshake and word of honor will do," says Thiele.

Language of course, can also be a barrier, so the craftsmen organization offers an English course geared specifically towards the construction industry, so that the German MasterCraftsmen will be well prepared to set foot on British soil. If only the weather will hold up.

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