EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Bayer, Germany: Integration into the labour market of people at risk of exclusion – early school-leavers

About

Country: 
Germany
Organisation Size: 
Large
Sectors: 
ChemicalsElectrical
Category: 
integrating people at risk of exclusion into the labour market

A training programme set up by Bayer AG in 1988 is designed to give disadvantaged young people an opportunity to receive vocational training. The programme allows these young people, who do not have sufficient qualifications, to directly enter an apprenticeship, and the opportunity to attain qualifications and acquire professionally relevant knowledge during a one-year preparatory course. To date, the programme has allowed Bayer to help 745 young people to qualify for a vocational training placement within the company. The scheme is fully funded by the company.

Organisational background

Bayer AG is a holding group with core competencies in the fields of healthcare, nutrition and high-tech materials; its business operations and service companies operate independently. The business operations are the responsibility of the company’s three subgroups –Bayer HealthCare, Bayer CropScience and Bayer MaterialScience. Central service functions are combined into three service companies – Bayer Business Services, Bayer Technology Services and Bayer Industry Services (BIS). The preparatory vocational training programme ‘Jump start’ is run by BIS. As a part of Bayer’s reorganisation in 2004, its chemicals’ business and a major part of the polymers business were transferred to a new entity called Lanxess. Bayer has five key locations in Germany, three of which are in the Rhineland area in western Germany.

A sectoral collective agreement for the chemicals industry on the ‘Promotion of integration of young people’ regulates the remuneration of young people without an apprenticeship contract. A company collective agreement lays down figures in terms of apprentices and participants of the jump start initiative.

All companies within the group are members of the same employer organisation. The restructuring of the company to a holding with several companies also influenced the setting up of different works councils. Trade union density currently stands at 70% for blue-collar workers and 30% for white-collar workers. The company has a gender equality plan in place.

At the end of June 2006, Bayer had 110,800 employees worldwide, including 61,400 workers in Europe, of whom 44,200 work in Germany. The total number of employees both worldwide and in Germany has increased in recent years.

Description of the initiative

Background

The preparatory vocational training programme is specifically developed to assist young people who are disadvantaged in terms of learning opportunities and social background. The key motivation for the initiative is corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the role of the company as a major local player – social responsibility also means training more young people than the company is likely to need. The programme creates perspectives for less well-qualified school-leavers. Without a programme of this type, these young people are at a high risk of exclusion from the labour market.

In 1988–1989, the initiative began with five participants in the town of Dormagen, located in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, with the involvement of the works council. It was extended to all of the company’s German sites, including those at Leverkusen, Krefeld-Uerdingen, Wuppertal-Elberfeld and Brunsbüttel. The number of participants increased to 50 young people in 1991, 75 in 2001 and 175 in 2004. Based on an agreement with the works council, the significant increase of 100 participants in 2004 came about as a result of a decrease by 100 places in the 875 regular apprenticeship places offered by the company. The reduction of regular apprenticeships was related to the increasing difficulty to award all apprentices an employment relationship after their training period.

Selection procedure

Interested young people cannot apply directly for the programme. Participants are recruited annually in the regular selection procedure for apprentices. In 2007, the company received 10,000 applications. Of this number, 6,000 applicants have been invited to an aptitude test, while 2,500 applicants have been invited to an interview of 20 to 30 minutes duration which focuses on knowledge, motivation and suitability. In each interview, three company representatives are involved. In total, 875 young people have been employed, of whom 175 were participants of the programme.

Overall, 55% of the applicants are men and 45% are women. The gender ratio for the programme is 30% women and 70% men. The applicants are between 15 and 25 years old. Preferably younger applicants are selected for the programme, and as a general rule they should be 15 to 19 years old. The majority of participants have a secondary school-leaving certificate. A large proportion of the participants (30%) come from families who have migrated to Germany.

Preparatory vocational training

The training course lasts one year and participants receive an entry-level qualification for an apprenticeship in various occupations such as chemical production technician or for a technical or administrative job. The programme does not focus on training participants for a particular occupation. During the training period, participants are paid according to the sectoral collective agreement.

The programme combines instruction to improve basic educational skills with elements of practical and theoretical vocational training, including training in social skills such as teamwork, communication techniques and self-discipline. Against the background of the German dual training system, two days of the week are spent in a vocational school, two days in practical training and one day in cultural training. The school training – in the publicly recognised company-owned vocational school at Bayer’s headquarters in Leverkusen in North Rhine-Westphalia or public vocational schools at the other locations – is strongly focused on balancing out gaps in the levels of formal school education.

The cultural education in the ‘Art approach’ method aims to promote personal development and key qualifications. Many participants of the preparatory vocational training programme have traumatic school experiences. In this regard, an important aspect of the programme is to improve the self-esteem of these young workers through good experiences during the training.

Modifications of the programme are primarily related to technical development. Over the 18 years of the programme, the occupations and the demands on workers changed considerably, for example for workers in the chemicals industry. Twenty years ago, this job implied hard physical work, whereas it is nowadays a high-tech job which is primarily done using technological control panels. In this regard, the progress of the jump start programme is monitored.

Participants in the programme do not receive a recognised vocational certificate on completion of the training; they only receive a notice of completion of the course. The entry qualification programme is agreed with the local Chamber of Commerce and can be credited for apprenticeships in particular occupations. At Bayer itself, some of the programme’s participants, who excel in the first half of the training, can be transferred to a regular apprenticeship.

A key factor for success, besides the intense selection procedure, is the rigorous coaching of the participant during the entire programme. Another important aspect of the programme is to provide advice to participants in finding the appropriate occupation. With the support of the programme’s trainers and teachers, the participants can develop their preference for a particular occupation.

The works councils are fully involved in the entire selection procedure. The programme’s design is mainly developed by the company department responsible for vocational training and personnel development.

Analysis

Over the years, the programme has helped 745 participants to achieve a vocational qualification and to integrate into the workforce. The initiative is part of the corporate culture of the company. The programme’s success and its recognition is also considered as a positive aspect for the company.

The company developed the initiative independently, although it is more costly than the regular apprenticeship programme. About €4.2 million is invested in the programme annually and is fully financed by the company. The intensive coaching and guidance of participants leads to a high success rate with almost 90% of participants succeeding in getting an apprenticeship contract at Bayer (85%) or with other companies.

Some of the participants who would not have otherwise had a real chance for an apprenticeship contract – due to the lack of a school-leaving certificate or because of poor school reports – managed to conclude the apprenticeship offered to them and the vocational examination as best candidates in the entire region of the Chamber of Commerce. Following on from this, some of the participants even achieved a degree, thus becoming an industry master craftsperson.

At the company’s German sites, trainees account for about 7% of the workforce, which is well above the chemicals industry average. In 2004, Bayer also established the air training initiative for the Rhineland area. It enables small and medium-sized enterprises to offer young people training opportunities as part of a broader network. About 50 partner companies cooperate and contribute to the cost of the vocational training. Bayer carries the bulk of the costs, provides the facilities and trainers, and the partner companies provide apprenticeship places.

Exemplary and contextual factors

Bayer developed the vocational preparation programme independently with the intention of giving socially disadvantaged young people an opportunity to receive vocational training and it does not receive any subsidies to carry out the project. The company takes its corporate social responsibility seriously and with this programme aims at combating youth unemployment. The programme reveals that a targeted preparatory programme can help disadvantaged young people to get access to an apprenticeship and employment as skilled workers. Even young people who had traumatic school experiences can develop their potential with the help of coaching and training.

Anni Weiler, AWWW GmbH, Göttingen

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