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Berlin : "We are sorry to tell you . . . "

From Claudia Keller

School leavers in Berlin will have an even harder time finding a training position this year than in previous years. On average, there are three applicants for each position: 27,950 young people from Berlin are fighting for 10,923 officially registered positions this year. At the end of July, 12,291 applicants were still looking, 845 more than in the previous year at the time. But only 3442 positions are still open. Only a quarter of Berlin's companies can still afford to train apprentices. The number has plummeted, especially among the craftsmen. In total, there are 1238 fewer apprenticeships available in Berlin this year. It looks just as depressing in Brandenburg. At the moment half of the young people there are still without an apprenticeship contract.

"The situation is dramatic," says Klaus Pohl, spokesman for the Berlin-Brandenburg state employment office. He still hopes that “we will get away with a black eye” - and that by the end of September only 2,000 young people will be unemployed. That would be just as many as last year. Pohl relies on the so-called federal-state programs, which are only just beginning. These are training courses in which the trainee does not receive his practical qualification in a company, but in an external educational institution. Several thousand such apprenticeship positions are still open. Pohl also advises school leavers to look at the pages of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Chamber of Crafts on the Internet. Hundreds of vacancies are listed there that are not registered with the employment office.

Pohl finds the fact that the number of “old applicants” is increasing from year to year “extremely worrying”. These are those who can't find anything after leaving school and have been looking for an apprenticeship for five or six years.

For Bernd Rissmann, Deputy Head of the DGB, the training situation in Berlin is a "catastrophe". "It is scandalous," said Rissmann, that the economy has not kept its promise in the Alliance for Work to create new training positions. Rissmann also criticizes the fact that the financial cuts by Finance Senator Thilo Sarrazin (SPD) have led to around 1,000 apprenticeships being lost in the public sector. The police, for example, are not hiring any trainees this year, and half of the training positions in the Senate Interior Administration and in the district offices have been cut. The governing mayor Klaus Wowereit must therefore make the improvement of the training situation a top priority - “and act accordingly positively”, demands the trade union federation.

The employment offices fear that in a few years' time there will be considerable bottlenecks in many sectors if training is not now provided beyond the current demand. Because from 2006 onwards, the cohorts with low birth rates will leave school. But even now there are industries that lack young talent. We are looking for bakers, butchers and hotel specialists, as well as metalworkers, hairdressers and insurance agents. There is also hope for those who want to get involved in something completely new: Chambers and associations have been creating new apprenticeships every year since 1996. Last year, 16 percent of young people were able to find work in the new service areas of event, sports and health management. From September of this year, Berlin companies will be training, among other things, specialists for environmental technology and security (property protection, data protection) for the first time. For the first time, 20 companies are looking for apprentices who want to become floor layers.

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