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Markus Körbel / Sarah Pierenkemper / Michael Zibrowius Expertise 28. September 2017 Gaining and Retaining Skilled Personnel Abroad: What do German Enterprises do?

The present study investigates training strategies of German companies in developing and emerging countries. By means of semi-structured interviews we shed light on the experiences of 16 companies operating in six countries. We thereby aim at identifying guidance for companies’ training and personnel development abroad.

What do German Enterprises do?
Markus Körbel / Sarah Pierenkemper / Michael Zibrowius Expertise 28. September 2017

Gaining and Retaining Skilled Personnel Abroad: What do German Enterprises do?

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German Economic Institute (IW) German Economic Institute (IW)

The present study investigates training strategies of German companies in developing and emerging countries. By means of semi-structured interviews we shed light on the experiences of 16 companies operating in six countries. We thereby aim at identifying guidance for companies’ training and personnel development abroad.

The most important outcomes can be summed up as follows:

1) There is no single training strategy that is equally promising for all countries, sec-tors, or company sizes. Much rather, a variety of different solutions allows the interviewed companies to reach their goal of finding sufficient skilled personnel.

2) If the companies’ aim is to implement a German-style vocational education, they oftentimes cooperate with the local German Chamber of Foreign Trade (AHK). Other companies realize their own dual training strategies which are more or less closely entangled in the local vocational education systems. Finally there are some companies where training does not follow strict curricula, but where instead the case-by-case, project-related and indi-vidual qualification of the workforce is prioritized.

3) Even though there exists a multitude of approaches concerning training abroad, some gen-eral success factors can be identified that support the training performance against very different institutional and cultural background conditions.

  • Although there are no distinct country-specific strategies, it is particularly important for companies to have considerations of the local culture and mentality. Oftentimes, a German-style dual vocational education is unknown – hence, young persons’ interest in this form of qualification needs to be raised first.
  • In addition, it is rewarding to seek contact with other German companies to share experiences and exchange ideas about the local training situation – this way, valuable collaborations may evolve.
  • It is both important and lucrative to become acquainted with local circumstances early on. Companies should remain in control of the reins and they should actively make their presence visible to adequately advocate their positions and interests.

4) Apart from the above mentioned success factors the interviewed companies encountered several obstacles while trying to implement their training strategies.

  • At first place, the low educational background of the potential trainees and the aca-demic and school-based vocational education system focusing entirely on theoreti-cal knowledge were mentioned.
  • The cooperation with the dual partners and the authorities does not always work smoothly – in many cases the gaps between speech and deed are quite considerable and it takes time and substantial effort to close them.

Training abroad is certainly a complex task that requires flexible and pragmatic solutions from the involved companies. Even though “the” right solution or strategy does not exist, companies can nonetheless learn from each other’s experiences such as to successfully retain their young talent in the long run.

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