Spanish Engineers Lining Up to Go to Germany

Mining Engineering Students at Madrid Polytechnical University
Mining Engineering Students at Madrid Polytechnical University in 2008. Photo by Santi Burgos.

Spanish Engineers Lining Up to Go to Germany
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Cristina Delgado reporting from Barcelona June 9, 2011

German Chancellor Angela Merkel stoked great expectations among many young Spaniards at the beginning of the year when she announced her country would need more than 100,000 engineers over the next decade, and she would be happy if they were Spanish. The problem is that some who are interested don’t know where to start looking. Yesterday, they finally received an answer: the German Chamber of Commerce organized a seminar in Barcelona about labor mobility. The goal: to explain to Spanish engineers the good things about working in Germany and how to get a job interview.

Registered attendees lined up to enter the conference room. Some who hadn’t signed up waited to take spaces from those who skipped. The event, which wasn’t widely publicized, was aimed at licensed engineers who had signed up days before. There wasn’t an empty seat in the house: the 80 places were not enough. Half the group was 25-30 years old. The other half was around 40. Ferran L., a 26-year old electrical engineer, was one of those seeking a job interview in Germany. “I went to Erasmus there, but I came home because I wanted to get work experience in Spain. I have a job here, but I’m overqualified for it,” he explained.

At yesterday’s workshop, which will be repeated on Friday in Madrid, Arnau Soy, from Catalonia Occupation Services, explained the Eures service: a public network for seeking employment inside the European Union. Spain participates and has reached an agreement with German state employment agencies for the selection of Spanish engineers. “If you wish to be included in the selection, you should go to the Eures website. To be clear, the companies have elevated standards.” The most sought engineers are specialists in metallurgy, electronics, and automobiles. In the second round, they will seek medical professionals and Spanish professors. “They want good professionals with a B2 level of German if possible.”

B2 is a high level. It signifies that the aspirant is capable of speaking fluently and writing and reading complex texts. “You can get there in five years taking two 90-minute classes per week. There are intensive language programs for those who need work which can get you there in 6 months, but you have to take more than 4 hours of class per day,” said Marc Borneis, adjunct director of the Goethe Institut. Joan, a chemical engineer who believes her German is inferior to what’s required, said: “I came here from Germany. I’ve been studying the language for 8 months while living with my sister there. Now I’d like to go to work. I’ll get the experience they want.”

The keynote speaker of the event was Gerald Schomann from the German public employment service. He spoke frankly: unemployment in Germany is 7%. In some western areas with many industries, it’s as low as 3%. The country’s demographic statistics lead it to believe that by 2040 its population will have aged to an alarming level. They expect 100,000 engineers to retire in the next decade, and they will need to be replaced. Hence, they are seeking professionals from Spain. “Now we’ll talk about money, which I know will interest you. The median salary for an engineer depends on his experience. For starters, it’s 41,225 euros a year; three years later, 54,900. The attendees smiled. In that sector in Spain, the median salary is 25,000 euros.

Seeking Labor
-According to German employment services, German companies are seeking engineers of all specialties, doctors, nurses, and Spanish teachers.
-The unemployment rate in Germany is about 7%: 10% in the East and 6% in the West. The most industrialized areas have unemployment as low as 3%, and highly qualified engineers are fully employed.
-Germany has 800,000 engineers, 5% of them foreigners. The median salary for workers with little experience is 41,225 euros; for those who have worked three years, it’s 54,900 euros.

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