Heidrun Schulz: Labour market Rhineland-Palatinate – Specialist staff as a crucial location factor

One core role of the Federal Employment Agency is to recruit and advise specialist staff and thus boost the labour market.

One core role of the Federal Employment Agency is to recruit and advise specialist staff and thus boost the labour market.

Rhineland-Palatinate is one of the strongest export states in Germany and, along­­side its industrial base, has a well-estab­­lished culture of small and medium-sized companies. Companies need well-trained and qualified specialist staff in order to prepare for the future and succeed in international competition.

Rhineland-Palatinate has not been spared the demographic changes in Germany. By 2025, the population will have shrunk significantly and a quarter of residents will be over 65. As older workers move into retirement, gaps will open up in many workforces, which cannot be filled by the young workers coming through alone. According to calculations by the Institute for Employment Research, by 2025, the labour force – the total num­­ber of people capable of working – in Rhine­­land-Palatinate will sink moderately by around 165,000 (approximately eight per cent) to 1.81 million people. This devel­­op­­ment will then speed up in the subsequent years.

The Federal Employment Agency has demonstrated opportunities for business, politics and the Employment Agency to gain the specialist staff they need together and has developed fields of action for this. By far the greatest potential for additional specialist staff could be achieved by increasing women’s participation in the labour market and extending the weekly working hours of part-time staff. Although female participation in the labour market in Rhineland-Palatinate has increased significantly in the last ten years, still “only” 70.2 per cent of women were in gainful employment in 2010. This puts Rhineland-Palatinate slightly below the German average of 70.8 per cent. However, this increase in employment among women was almost exclusively due to a significant increase in part-time employment.

Great potential for specialist staff in Rhineland-Palatinate could be gained by increasing economic activity among people over 55. Employment among older people has increased significantly in the last few years, but the employment quota for this age group remains below average for employees liable to pay social security contributions. Many of the supposed disadvantages of older employees, such as higher staffing costs, higher levels of illness and lower pro­­duc­­tivity, are not real impediments for taking on or continuing to employ older people. Older people in society have never been as capable and productive as they are today. Companies are increasingly recognising how to accommodate the changing requirements of older em­­ployees by making adjustments within the business. It is also important to invest in further training for older people.

A further field of action will be to de­­scribe what will happen if attempts to further reduce the number of pupils leaving school with no qualifications are successful in the coming years. Good progress has already been made in this area in recent years. Initiatives in this area must be accompanied by an im­­proved transition from school to working life. Significantly higher numbers of specialist staff could be secured for the future if the number of “training dropouts” could be reduced. According to figures from the Federal Institute for Voca­­tional Education and Training, around one in four training contracts is dissolved early – potential young people who are not being trained.

The "completed degree studies" success quota is 77.9 per cent in Rhineland-Palatinate.

The “completed degree studies” success quota is 77.9 per cent in Rhineland-Palatinate.

Specialist staff are needed in many sectors, such as in the automotive sector.

Specialist staff are needed in many sectors, such as in the automotive sector.

 Additional reserves of specialist staff could also be opened up if the proportion of students leaving universities without a degree could be reduced. According to a survey by Hochschul-Informations-Sys­­tem GmbH, the main grounds for dropping out include problems with per­­formance, finan­­cial reasons and a lack of motivation. Recent figures show that, in Rhineland-Palatinate, there are almost 140,000 people aged between 20 and 55 in em­­ploy­­ment liable to social security contri­­bu­tions who have no professional training. Given that technological progress will mean that, in future, there will be a need for significantly more qualified and fewer unqualified workers, later training and qua­­l­­i­­fication of additional specialist staff would be another way to gain more experts.Controlled immigration of highly quali­­fied specialist staff from abroad can only be solved at a federal level. Promising options could be to inspire foreign students at the universities to consider em­­ploy­­ment in the region, accelerate recognition of pro­­fes­­sional training com­­pleted abroad and, above all, to further increase the attractiveness of jobs in the state for workers from neighbouring regions. Many ap­­proaches towards future-orientated labour market policy can already be seen. For example, cooperation between the re­­gional directorate and the state govern­­ment as well as partners from business are paving the way for reducing the num­­bers of school leavers without qualifica­tion and “training dropouts”.

By offering further training for low-qua­­li­­fied and older employees, especially in small and medium-sized companies, po­­lit­­­­ical labour market programmes have already made a key contribution to in­­creas­ing qualification. In order to provide targeted support for older workers, the employment agencies are actively advising companies in Rhineland-Palat­­inate through the “WeGebAU” programme. The cooperation of the regional directorate in the EURES-Transfrontalier Saar-Lor-Lux-Rhein­­land-Pfalz-Wallonie network is helping to stem the flow of commuters across the borders.

There is no silver bullet which can prevent the looming shortage of specialist staff; many steps will be needed to actively counteract it. The bodies responsible for this are also wide ranging. Targeted coop­­eration between the federal and state governments, districts, social partners, companies, business associations and social security providers is setting the course for the future.

Schulz-Kopie-KopieThe author studied Ro­­mance Studies/His­­­­tory and Business Eco­­nomics. She started as a junior staff member at the state em­­­­ploy­­­­­­­ment agency in Baden-Württemberg and was man­­­­aging director of basic security benefits for job seekers at the Nieder­­sachsen-Bremen regional directorate in 2009. Since 2010, Heidrun Schulz has been chair of the ex­­ec­­utive Board for the Rhineland-Palatinate-Saarland regional directorate of the Federal Employment Agency.