Tour de Fribourg: French trainees in southern Baden

Trainees from southern France complete work placements in craft trade businesses in southern Baden

Skilled workers are needed – in the crafts trades too! Without appropriately qualified employees, companies are unable to implement large-scale future projects, such as those relating to the energy and mobility revolution, to the extent required. "We are facing major challenges and are therefore tapping into all possible potential," explains Wolfram Seitz-Schüle, General Manager of the Freiburg Chamber of Crafts and Trades. "Many different elements are needed for us to be able to provide a solid basis for ensuring the supply of future talent in the craft trades."

One of these elements is attracting foreign skilled workers. In this context, from 8 to 18 February 2022, the project "Training without Borders" ran a successful trainee exchange between southern Baden and southern France. A total of six French trainees – three electricians, one mason, one carpenter and one motor vehicle mechatronics technician – all aged between 17 and 21 took up the offer from "Training without Borders" and spent nine days learning about work in businesses in southern Baden. The businesses taking part in the electrical sector were Elektro Ullmann, Seewald Elektro and Ritter Elektrotechnik in Freiburg and also Elektro Schönberger in Bötzingen. Representing the construction and wood working sector were Sänger GmbH and Holzkantine in Freiburg. The Freiburg-based car dealership ernst + könig offered aspiring motor vehicle mechatronics technician Emmy Maïwen Crouzet an insight into the day-to-day work of the authorized Ford dealership.

"The team is great, I love it – both the work and the working atmosphere. I feel very much at home here and am learning something new every day," underlines the 17-year-old from France. She says that while there is a language barrier, much can be explained in English or by using gestures. Emmy Maïwen Crouzet opted for her foreign placement in southern Baden for a number of reasons. "I want to show that the motor vehicle trade really is something for women. And in this respect, there is just so much more equality between colleagues in Germany than there is in France. I hope to gain more self-confidence and valuable experience from the placement. Besides, Germany is a great country and Freiburg is a lovely city. I’m pleased and grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to do this placement through the exchange programme."

For workshop supervisor Manolito Schweier, it's not just the trainees who benefit from the exchange programme, but also the businesses. "I think the programme is good and having trainees from another country in the business is also very enriching. It is obviously a bit tricky in terms of language. Lots of things take a bit longer and there's more effort involved, but it's all doable." The dealership is also thoroughly positive in their assessment of working with Emmy Maïwen Crouzet. "We would immediately take on Ms Crouzet for training. Her technical potential is obvious to see, and she always works reliably. We are very happy with her. Generally speaking, we would be very pleased to see more women entering the automotive sector or more generally the craft trades," explains Schweier.

All trainees appeared very satisfied with the exchange and their time in southern Baden. They felt they were welcomed warmly and appreciated by their businesses. Accommodation was found for them in a hostel in Freiburg which meant that each day they were able to discuss what they had experienced at work. Joint activities, such as a visit to the EU parliament in Strasbourg, were also arranged.

So far, cross-border training is relatively rare

Despite being close in a geographic sense, very few young people from France opt for training in Germany. Often the language barrier is seen as the biggest hurdle. The exchange programme "Training without Borders" seeks to address this reluctance and make it easier for those interested to access vocational experiences abroad. It receives financial support through the "Erasmus+" funding programme for this reason. Working closely with the CFM de l'Ariège vocational School in Foix, in southern France, Freiburg Chamber of Crafts and Trades mobility advisor Heike Schierbaum planned and coordinated the stay for the six aspiring craft tradesmen and women in southern Baden. "I'm really pleased that we were again able to organise a successful exchange in cooperation with CFM de l’Ariège," says Schierbaum, summing up, "the professional, cultural and personal exchange with our direct neighbours is – particularly for us here where the borders of three countries meet – something which offers great potential for both trainees and skilled workers on both sides."

The next exchange between Germany and France is already being planned. In June 2022, ten aspiring motor vehicle mechatronics technicians are coming to southern Baden for a placement. 

Source: (website of the German Chamber of Skilled Crafts Freiburg), revised by iMOVE, June 2022