German Skills Gap

Hans Peter Wollseifer, President of the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts and Small Business (ZDH), was one of the speakers at the opening press conference at R+T, the world’s leading trade fair for roller shutters, doors, gates and sun protection systems in Stuttgart, Germany.  I attended R+T and on February 27 heard Mr. Wollseifer and several other leaders talk about the industry, successful tradeshow and healthy year-on-year market growth. To my surprise, however, I also heard a lot about the German Skills Gap -- the lack of workers for open jobs in the roller shade/doors/gates industry.

Throughout my research Germany has been the poster child of how to feed a society with skilled workers.

Mr. Wollsifer, a painter and varnisher by craft and accomplished construction and real estate entrepreneur in Kohn has led this organization since 2014.  ZDH represents one million small “hand craft” businesses in Germany, 5.4 employees, 360,000 students who are learning these crafts and $670 billion annual revenue. ZDH has offices in Berlin and Brussels where it influences the policies and legislation in Germany and the EU to respect, protect, and grow the work of these craft trade “cottage” industries, companies he describes as “labor and wage-intensive.”

He reported that ZDH expects a 3% growth in revenue and 50,000 additional workers in 2018. At the same time it is very difficult to find “specialists and apprentices.”  He laments that this is despite “the labor market prospects in craft trades [being] excellent.” He adds, “Master craftsmen have a much lower risk of becoming unemployed than academics.”

ZDH’s focused lobbying to the German national government includes three main elements:

  1. “Controlled immigration of qualified foreign specialists.”  Complimenting Germany’s humanitarian refugee policy of the last few years, ZDF welcomes immigrants with skills and interest in working in skilled-craft industries.

  2. Providing skilled craft workers with training in “digital competence.”  He mentioned five Digital Competence Centers have been established in cooperation with the Ministry of Economics and Technology to up-skill existing workers to keep pace with technological advances.

  3. Continual emphasis on the  support to strong vocational education and training programs.  He calls this “Higher Vocational Training” highlighting the “equivalence between vocational training and academic (University) education.”

Skills Gap, Vocational Education, International Benchmarks


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