There is a shortage of trainees in Germany. Many trainers simply cannot find any trainees, or at least none who will complete their training. In an interview with “rbb”, a master painter says how he sees the situation.

Thomas Thümmel from Brandenburg is desperate. The 33-year-old master painter is not only the head of a two-man business, but also a trainer. His problem: Nobody applies to him. Many trainers in Germany are like Thomas Thümmel. The order books are full, but the orders are getting longer and longer. Customers have to wait months for a handyman. This situation is becoming more and more dangerous for the German economy.

Master painter Thümmel hasn’t been training for a year because there is simply a lack of young people. “People who try to start an apprenticeship usually drop out, or as soon as they have their journeyman’s certificate, they’re gone,” the entrepreneur told rbb. His small business couldn’t afford it. Thümmel would also like to take on the apprentices after their training. But so far none.

“There is no discipline among the young people, no more order,” says the master painter, who has been running his business for five years now. “Working eight hours a day is already a problem for many.” His verdict is devastating: “You only have roof battens here on the market.”

“We are the last generation still working in construction,” the 33-year-old continues. According to Thümmel, he could hire three to four employees at any time. “There is nobody there, nobody wants to do it.”

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At the start of the new training year, the President of the Federal Institute for Vocational Training (BIBB), Friedrich Hubert Esser, once again made it clear what the situation was like: “The range of skilled workers that is increasingly lacking is large: from roofers to software developers”. The year-long decline in the number of training contracts must finally be stopped. “Otherwise, in the near future we won’t have anyone else who builds wind turbines or installs modern heating and solar systems.”

With this, Esser also drew the link to the current situation: The political goals on paper, to break free from dependence on gas and oil from Russia, for example, can only be achieved with difficulty if there are no trained people who can do it with their hands can practically implement.

“We are missing a lot of young people in training,” said craft president Hans Peter Wollseifer a few days ago. He assumes that there is a quarter of a million shortage of skilled workers in the trades alone. Goals, for example when installing heat pumps, are then difficult to achieve.

BIBB President Esser expressed the fear that the hoped-for recovery on the training market after the two years of Corona might not materialize as a result of the Russian war of aggression, since high energy prices and the impending gas shortage are burdening companies and increasing the risk of recession.

473,100 new training contracts were concluded last year (as of September 30). In the 2000s, the average was still around 585,000 contracts per year. The second problem: mathematically, there is one for everyone who is looking for an apprenticeship. But the reality is this: 63,200 training positions remained vacant last year – an increase of 3,200 and more than twice as many as ten years ago. At the same time, 24,600 applicants remained unplaced. Experts speak of a fit problem.

There are sectors with a shortage of trainees, such as food sales, gastronomy, butchers, plumbers, courier services or in concrete and steel construction. Elsewhere there are sometimes more applicants than places, for example in media design, animal care or the fitness industry. There are also regional differences.

Internationally, the dual vocational training in Germany – the combination of theory in the vocational school with practical training in the company is a “respected model”, according to the Conference of Ministers of Education. The Federal Ministry of Education calls vocational training a “success factor for Germany as a business location”.

According to Craft President Wollseifer, however, more should be done politically to make vocational training more attractive in the state. He speaks of more appreciation, more recognition and adequate funding. “Our educational institutions and vocational schools must no longer be treated as stepchildren in terms of educational policy. There must no longer be a two-class society in education policy.” One has to get away from the idea that only a degree can bring professional and personal success.

According to the BIBB, young people and young adults can choose from a total of 327 recognized training occupations at the beginning of the new training year. The top training occupation for young women last year was “medical assistant”, for men it was again “vehicle mechatronics technician”.