Joint press release by the BMZ, the BA and DB

Attracting skilled workers through migration: pilot project between the Federal Ministry for Development and Deutsche Bahn takes shape

11 Oct 2022 | Press release no.45

The inward migration of skilled workers and apprentices from developing countries can be part of the solution to the critical shortage of skilled workers in Germany. It therefore forms part of the skilled workers strategy that the German federal government plans to finalise this week. With a pilot project in which Deutsche Bahn (DB) is also partaking, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is examining how the migration of workers can be organised in such a way that the migrants, the countries of origin and the German economy can benefit in equal measure. This apprenticeship year, for the first time, Deutsche Bahn is employing two apprentices from Tunisia who have moved to Germany as part of the project. Minister for Development, Svenja Schulze, and Chief Human Resources Officer at DB, Martin Seiler, welcomed the new apprentices today at a DB workshop in Berlin together with Chair of the Federal Employment Agency (BA) Andrea Nahles and Member of the BA Executive Board, Vanessa Ahuja. The Chair of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB), Yasmin Fahimi, and the envoy of the Tunisian Embassy, Chiheb Chaouch, also attended the meeting.

Minister for Development, Svenja Schulze: “The shortage of skilled workers has become so critical that it is threatening the economic strength and prosperity of Germany. At the same time, several developing countries, especially in Africa, are finding it hard to create enough jobs for their young and growing populations. We can therefore help each other out so that everyone benefits in some way: the migrants find a good job, training and the transfer of knowledge takes place in the countries of origin, and here in Germany, we get the skilled workers we urgently need. The pilot project with Tunisia and Deutsche Bahn is doing valuable pioneering work that will help us to develop even bigger solutions in the future. After all, even if the migration of workers can only be one of several elements in our new strategy for skilled workers, we certainly can’t do without it. In this context, a modern immigration policy starts by viewing the topic of migration from developing countries in terms of solutions rather than in terms of problems.”

Martin Seiler, Chief Human Resources Officer at Deutsche Bahn: “We are continuing to hire at an absolutely record level: this year alone, with 24,000 new employees to strengthen the railways system and advance the mobility revolution. As the labour market becomes increasingly tight, however, we are breaking new ground in staff recruitment – and also crossing borders. In the future, foreign workers are set to be increasingly important for both us and other businesses in Germany. I am therefore all the more pleased that the Ministry for Development and the Federal Employment Agency are helping to find hard-working skilled workers and bring them to Germany. I have the utmost respect for our Tunisian apprentices, who have come to Germany on a one-way ticket in their mid-twenties. We will do everything we can to ensure that they become integrated and get qualified in the best possible way.”

Andrea Nahles, Chair of the Executive Board of the Federal Employment Agency: “Germany needs skilled workers from abroad to ensure that the labour market here continues to function. Without immigration, our potential workforce would fall by seven million people by 2035. The level only remains constant at an annual net immigration rate of 400,000 people. To attract skilled workers from other countries to our labour market, it is important to simplify the inward migration of skilled workers and overcome bureaucratic hurdles.”

While the German economy is suffering from a critical shortage of skilled workers due to an aging population, many developing countries with younger societies are very interested in an approach for the migration of workers that gives their people access to knowledge and international training. For the migration of workers to be beneficial to all sides, a strong alliance is needed between the worlds of politics and business in Germany as well as the countries of origin of the skilled workers and apprentices.

The new skilled workers strategy of the German federal government intends to create the foundations for this and have a development-oriented signature: this means that the countries of origin also benefit from the regular migration of workers – through the transfer of knowledge and training, for example. Ensuring fair recruitment and placements with German employers also prevents precarious forms of employment and exploitation. And it also stops the recruitment of skilled workers and apprentices from causing a brain drain in the countries of origin.

One example of this approach is the pilot project of the European Union (EU) and the Ministry of Development on the migration and mobility of labour between North Africa and Europe (“THAMM”), in which the DB, among others, is also participating: THAMM provides advice and training to the agencies for employment in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt and links them with their counterparts in Belgium, France and Germany. This puts agencies for employment in a better position to identify the needs of their own labour markets and accurately match skilled workers with the migration requirements of European companies. German companies can therefore fill (training) positions for which they were unable to find any suitable candidates on the German labour market. Skilled workers who would like to emigrate are offered attractive and secure career prospects in Europe.

In the THAMM project, 234 apprentices and 44 skilled workers from Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt have so far been placed at companies in Germany, including the hotel and catering, electrical, metalworking, plumbing, heating and air conditioning, logistics, bakery, construction and IT industries. They had previously completed courses in which they had German language lessons and were prepared for German working culture and life in Germany.

At the DB, two skilled workers have started work via “THAMM” as well as the two apprentices who began their apprenticeships as Electronics Technicians for Operational Technology in September. The DB plans to expand its cooperation in the coming year and to recruit more skilled staff from Tunisia or Egypt through the project.

Further information on the pilot project is available in the THAMM programme – the fair recruitment of skilled workers and apprentices from Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. (available in German)