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In practice

A perfect match – supporting SMEs in filling their vacant apprenticeship positions

Summary

Germany—

  • To support SMEs in recruiting trainees and skilled workers, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action initiated the programme Passgenaue Besetzung (“perfect match”).

  • Around 150 advisors across the country are employed through the programme supporting SMEs to identify their needs, draw up requirement profiles, search for potential candidates, and support the recruitment process.

  • For one out of two matches, Passgenaue Besetzung fills training places with people who would not have been considered by the SMEs in the selection process without the programme.

Published on the 05/01/2024

Geographic scaleCountry

KeywordsSkills and labour shortages, Youth, Migrants and ethnic minorities

ThemesSMEs and entrepreneurship, Local employment and skills

CountryGermany

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What are the objectives?

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face significant challenges in recruiting skilled workers, particularly due to demographic change. Compared to large companies they have limited financial and human resources, less experience in recruiting and have less visibility with job seekers or potential apprentices. SMEs are therefore disadvantaged in the competition for the best young talent.

To address this challenge, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action initiated the programme Passgenaue Besetzung (“perfect match”). Founded in 2007, and revised in 2015, the programme supports SMEs by helping them find suitable trainees and job candidates. This includes both potential apprentices and trainees amongst the pool of young people in Germany, as well as foreign trainees and skilled workers already living in Germany or from other European countries.

How does it work in practice?

The programme utilises a network of advisors to reach out to SMEs and support them in filling their vacant apprenticeship positions. Advisors determine the company’s need for trainees, draw up requirement profiles, search for potential candidates, and support the recruitment process. They use a number of approaches to match apprentices with SMEs. These include the organisation of ‘apprentice-speed-dating’ formats and vocational training fairs, as well as accompanying young people at job interviews and using various channels for outreach and consultation (e.g. social media, virtual meetings, or face-to-face). Beyond its initial termination date on the 31.12.2023, the project has been extended until 31.12.2027 and received EUR 9.7 million funding for the extension period, with 40% of contributions coming from the private sector and the rest from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. Advisors employed through the programme are based in the local Chambers of Industry and Commerce (IHK), Chambers of Skilled Crafts (HWK), Chambers of Liberal Professions and at other business organisations in all 16 German federal states. Around 150 advisors in total are employed through the programme.

Since 2015, the programme has an additional focus on supporting the recruitment of foreign trainees. Advisors help SMEs in incorporating an open welcoming culture and aim to increase their willingness to employ foreign youth and skilled workers by breaking down reservations about foreign people and demonstrating advantages, such as making use of cultural diversity and intercultural skills in the establishment and expansion of foreign business activities or improving the corporate image. Further activities of advisors include the provision of information for a successful integration and initiation of potential support mechanisms, such as support in language training, residence status, and legal questions.

What has been the impact?

A counterfactual impact evaluation for the period between 2015 and 2017 highlights that the programme achieved large uptake and exceeded its operational goals. In the evaluation period the programme was presented to 163 496 SMEs, 39 333 SMEs received individual support in filling apprenticeships (exceeding the target of 27 572) and 24 987 were consulted for a better integration of foreign youth and skilled workers. Particularly the support of micro-enterprises (50% of all consultations) was a strong achievement of the programme as this group statistically faces the largest barriers in finding suitable apprentices. Moreover, the programme provided individual support for 90 400 young people of which around 18% were foreign. During the evaluation period the number of consultations grew continuously – in total 15% between 2015 and 2017 – despite existing evidence showing a decreasing interest of young people in doing an apprenticeship.

The programme has a high and increasing level of awareness among SMEs, a high level of target achievement and effectiveness and contributes to a higher matching rate and a slight increase in the number of apprenticeship opportunities. For one out of two matches, the programme fills training places with people who would not have been considered by the SMEs in the selection process without the programme. As matching problems on the German training and job market persist (and are getting worse in some places), there is still untapped potential for companies that need support for “tailor-made staffing” and will be reached through the programme in the future.

What can other communities learn from this example?

Passgenaue Besetzung brings together SMEs and young people who would not come together without the programme. It compensates disadvantaged SMEs, particularly micro-enterprises, in the search for skilled workers and trainees that match their needs. Furthermore, it builds a bridge between foreign or migrant workers and SMEs by breaking down cultural reservations and easing onboarding processes. As many SMEs across OECD countries are facing challenges related to skills shortages and demographic change, the programme may inspire other communities who aim to support their SMEs and (upcoming) trainees in finding suitable apprenticeships for both sides.

Further information

OECD resources

OECD/ILO (2017), Engaging Employers in Apprenticeship Opportunities: Making It Happen Locally, Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED), OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264266681-en.

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