Swedes snub German apprentice scheme

Swedes snub German apprentice scheme
Swedish youth have turned a cold shoulder to the offer of apprenticeships in Germany, a scheme widely credited for keeping youth unemployment low in Sweden's neighbour to the south.

The German government has now revamped the programme in an attempt to encourage Swedish students to relocate.

“One of our problems last year was not that many Swedish students speak German,” Maja Erlbacher, an advisor with the European Employment Agency (EURES) told The Local. “Most of those who show interest have no prior language knowledge at all.”

The programme, called “The Job of My Life,” used to require some level of German language skills as there wasn’t time to learn before the apprenticeships began. Germany has now scrapped the requirement and has restructured the programme to allow time for language classes. To encourage young Swedes to enroll, from this autumn onwards, young job-seekers will first be offered support for German language training in Sweden. The language classes then continue on-site in Germany.

Erlbacher said that language education is just one parcel of the larger package the German government is offering. The apprenticeships are paid, and the programme also aims to help students integrate socially.

Germany’s apprenticeship programme is renowned throughout Europe and is said to be one reason why Germany has the lowest unemployment rates in all of the EU. The programme, which Erlbacher said has been used in some form since the Middle Ages and grown alongside Germany’s economy, enables students to step into the job market after their ninth year of traditional schooling and add a more practical element to their education.

But many Swedish students are deterred by the length of the apprenticeships, which last between two and three years. Erlbacher said that many students need time to consider the drawn-out relocation, but there’s no way to avoid it.

“There is no possibility of shortening down the apprenticeship period,” Erlbacher told The Local. “It’s a very long time for a young person to be in another country and give up everything one has here in Sweden. But there is a lot to learn and they need all the time they can get. It’s the same period that a German applicant would have.”

About 350 different types of apprenticeship positions are available in various job sectors. Erlbacher said that the chances of placement are very good for those who are interested, although they won’t know how many applicants they have until the end of the year.

Erlbacher said the German and Swedish apprenticeship systems both have benefits, and are too different to compare.

“In Sweden you do all the theoretical stuff there at school, in gymnasium, and then you have a shorter apprenticeship to focus on the practical. In the German system you do these things at the same time. After ninth grade you are at your workplace three or four days a week and at school one or two days a week, and this goes on for about three years. It’s really not possible to compare them.”

Solveig Rundquist

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