Dr. Jürgen Rogahn: A stable pillar of the economy – Values of qualified trades prove themselves

The qualified trades – an under­estimated local eco­no­mic force
When people talk about “the commercial sector”, they of­­ten mean major, publicly list­­ed company groups. That is a misinterpretation. The outsized majority of all companies are con­­siderably smaller. In spite of their small size, they provide the majority of jobs and apprenticeships/traineeships. So anyone talking about the commercial sec­­tor cannot go past the small and me­­dium-sized sector in general and qualified trades firms in particular. The qual­­ified trades form a diverse branch of the German economy, which, with its small structure, also constitutes a core sector of the economy. For industry, private consumers or the public authority, the qual­­ified trades offer a broad, high-qual­­ity range of goods and services tailored to individual customer requirements.

The broad range of goods and services can be seen in the number of occupations. A total of 141 occupations are represented among the 15,089 trades firms in the Halle Trades Chamber re­­gion. Typical construction industry-based trades such as roofers, masons and carpenters are represented, as are metal processing firms, bakers, cos­­meticians and den­­tal technicians. Com­­pa­­nies with a high technological component to their work and innovative capacity such as precision engineers, metalworkers or motor vehicle technicians, who are al­­so integrated in a national and international division of labour, stand side-by-side with traditional trades and handicrafts such as bakers, watch-ma­kers and tailors, who are sought after for their creativity and niche market skills in order to compete against in­­dustrially made products. Some occupations are found everywhere – others, such as surgical instrument technicians or woodwind instrument makers, are quite unique.


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A division of labour can also be seen in the selection of a company location, this time between the various regions in the densely-populated Central Ger­­man Leipzig-Halle-Dessau area. Com­­pa­­nies requiring more space are often based in the regions surrounding larger cities, while those preferring to be closer to their customers tend to be based in ur­­ban areas. The potential of the Halle eco­­nomic region does not become ap­­parent until the Halle Chamber region is seen in its entirety.

The city of Halle and its surrounding area occupy a special position as one of the most important business centres in Ger­­many’s economic history. After the dis­­appearance of the Iron Curtain in 1990, large sections of the industrial sector, which had grown over the decades, proved no longer competitive.

The spread of major manufacturing and services companies in the region is there­­fore low, which explains why the econo­­m­­ic power of the qualified trades is a more crucial factor here than elsewhere. In late 2008, an estimated 8,500 people were employed in 1,767 trades firms in Hal­le. This figure was added to by some 1,000 apprentices/trainees at all levels. In the entire region covered by the Hal­le Trades Chamber, 15,089 trades firms employed about 71,000 tradespeople and trained 8,732 apprentices/trainees as at the end of 2008. Every seventh em­­ployee and al­­most every third apprentice/trainee in the Chamber’s region works in the qual­­ified trades.
Trades firms tend to be small, with an average of five people working there. Close personal relationships among the employees and between employees and employers are normal, which has a positive effect on the company’s working climate and job security.

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Many trades firms train more apprentices/trainees than they need in order to ensure a supply of the employees they will require in future, including in times of expected staff fluctuation. Intern­ships help familiarize future employees while they are still at school. The trade cham­­bers’ careers advisors maintain close con­­tacts both to firms and schools, provide advice and information and assistance if problems occur. All sectors of the eco­­n­­omy benefit from this training work, which actually exceeds requirements.

Trades – competence and quality
The tough competition in the market is a challenge for the trades. Their res­­­­­p­­o­­nse is quality, imagination and find­­ing market niches.

Over the last few years, the trades, such as the metal trades and precision en­­gineering, have had a large share in Ger­many’s positive economic development. The increased requirements of environ­­mentally friendly building, for example in building insulation, require more and more specialist knowledge from the build­­ing trades und offer new areas of activity. The many trade firms that work for retail customers, like bakers and hairdressers, stabilize the Ger­­man economy in the face of the current drop in exports.,

These firms can only compete with well-trained, skilled employees, so for initial vocational training and ad­­vanc­­ed trades training, the Chamber re­­gion provides train­­ing centres in four locations: Halle-Osendorf, Sted­­­ten, Wit­­ten­­berg and the dental technician training centre in Halle.
Courses are held there for the wide variety of trades and requirements, rang­­ing from initial trades training through master tradesmens’ courses to building energy advisors or courses for “trainer qualification”. For example, the training centre at the Halle Trades Chamber in Sted­ten offers courses for those wishing to become building energy advisors. At such courses, trai­­­n­­ees learn all about solar heating sys­­tems and photovoltaics, heat-pumps and heat recovery; they then pass this knowledge on to customers. On completing such courses, building energy advisors are authorized to issue the legally prescribed energy pass for res­­idential buildings.
Anyone looking for a challenging and interesting job is in good hands as a tradesman or woman and it is ex­­pect­­ed that a sufficient number of ap­­pren­­­ticeships/traineeships will be available over the next few years.


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In autumn 2009, the top apprentices and trainees of their year will meet in Halle, which will be the venue for the finale of the German national trades competitions. This event will be an im­­pressive demonstration of the high level of trades training in Germany.
At the annual “open day” at the trades training centres and the Central Ger­­man Trades Fair in Leipzig, the new recruits will familiarize themselves with the wide range of trades activities; for many of them, it will be a pleasant surprise. For example, trades firms are responsible for implementing the current topics of energy-sav­-ing and the use of alternative energies. The Halle hairdressing and cos­­metics guild will be demonstrating the latest trends and the creative op­­portunities in these trades and will combine skilled entertainment, teach­­ing and recruitment.

 

Jürgen-Rogahn_40061-HWKDr. Rogahn is a graduate in eco­­no­­­­mics and has been general manager of the Halle Trades Chamber since Janua­ry 2005. After obtaining his first degree, he obtained a doctorate on the subject of de­­mo­­graphics. He was a re­­se­arch assistant at the Uni­­versity of Halle until 1991 and then went to work for the Halle Trades Chamber. In 1996 he assumed the position of a Trades Chamber’s manager.