Two happy faces behind the statistics

The first nationwide pilot project of the SOS vocational training centres paves the way for two teenagers to take their apprenticeship exams. According to details from the Federal Statistics Office, almost one in ten schoolboys leaves school without any qualifications. The consequences are widely known. Because of the shortage of apprenticeships on offer, companies taking on trainees can choose from the best school-leavers. To avoid the complete social descent of disadvantaged young people and to offer them a perspective, training centres with supervision and support for the individual are essential.

There is a shortage of public funds, which is why a unique nationwide pilot project by the sponsor SOS Kinderdorf e.V was started in the Nuremberg SOS vocational training centre. Last year the Schwabach company Memmert, instead of sending Christmas presents to its customers, made available a total of 40,000 Euros, to cover the costs for a third year of apprenticeship for two apprentices at the centre.

19-year-old Kevin Männecke and Dominik Hofmann are two of the faces behind the statistics and at the same time are positive examples of how even difficult cases can find their way into the world of work by being helped to help themselves. After 8 years of school Kevin dropped out, completed various trial placements before being placed by the job centre with the SOS vocational training centre. “I wasn’t very well behaved at school, they didn’t want me any more“, he grins. At the same time he is pleased that he made use of the opportunity given to him by the 2-year apprenticeship as a building painter. Dominik Hofmann had completed his school-leaving certificate at the second attempt, and then experienced a frustrating year with unsuccessful job applications. His granddad had been a painter, so he could relate to this training course. Now they will have the opportunity, through their Schwabach sponsors, to obtain a training certificate as qualified painters and decorators. Angelika Henneberg, head of Marketing at Memmert, on the motivation behind the contribution, which has absolutely nothing to do with the business objectives of the manufacturer of thermal ovens of worldwide repute: “We see ourselves as a company with a social obligation to also give late developers an opportunity. And we are reaping substantial rewards. It gives us so much pleasure to see the enthusiasm that these two young people have for their profession.“

With the best intentions, new 2-year skilled professions were introduced by the government. The intention was to promote the willingness of companies to train school-leavers and to give young people who could not manage a 3-year training course, because of their lack of perseverance, or rather practical talents, the opportunity to obtain a simplified vocational qualification. But what about young people such as Kevin and Dominik, who now believe in themselves again because of individual support, but who cannot complete the third year of apprenticeship due to the lack of funds? Gabriele Becker, head of the SOS vocational training centre, sees gloomy prospects for many of her charges, especially for the 2-year qualification as a building painter. In the painting and decorating trade, many graduates without an apprenticeship certificate are not taken on, and finding placements in external companies that could provide for the third year of apprenticeship usually fails. Although they are certainly capable of undertaking more highly qualified work, they face unemployment or casual, unskilled work. The Nuremberg social department head Reiner Prölß considers it to be an essential task of the caring society to provide support for the thousands of young people who do not find an apprenticeship, to make it easier to find a vocation. Social commitment from private people and companies would be very welcome as a supplement to public funds, but unfortunately occurs much too rarely. “Poverty has now become established in our society, and one of the reasons for that can be found in the low level of formal education. We must all do more than just managing poverty and alleviating the worst poverty“, Prölß pleads.

The lack of qualifications of young people has not only social-political consequences, but also economic ones. It has been known for some years that there is a shortage of skilled workers, some companies have great difficulties in processing orders because of a shortage of staff, particularly in the industrial-technical and skilled trade fields. Lowering training standards weakens the training system and leads to an increase in a less qualified workforce, and the unemployment rate after this type of training is higher, admitted Henrik Schwarz, from the Federal Institute for Vocational Training, during the forum “Training and Qualifications“ in 2007. Instead of training those at a disadvantage in a shorter time, it is on the contrary necessary to increase the duration and intensity of training and create flexible opportunities for promotion. “From an economic point of view, it is not low qualified employees, but more highly qualified employees that provide the competitive edge“, wrote Rainer Brötz two years before on this subject, also from the Federal Institute for Vocational Training.

Thanks to support from the company Memmert, Kevin and Dominik have been given this opportunity for promotion and have for their part made firm resolutions to take a big step towards a positive future for themselves in 2009 by getting good results in their apprenticeship exams.