After a short morning off to catch up on work from home and explore downtown
Cologne, we hopped into taxis to the right bank of Cologne to visit Koelnmesse the 7th largest exhibition and conference space in Europe. Koelnmesse also has over 700 employees including a wide range of apprenticeship opportunities. The site which brings in a significant economic impact regionally hosts more than 80 massive conventions, including the largest "gaming" convention in the world. In addition to the 700 employers, Koelnmesse works with a network of contractors who subcontract work for set up and
tear down; but also works with the citywide network of hotels to support the required high levels of customer service.
Following the tour, we were welcome at Incub8, the digital hub and an incubator in Cologne to support the emerging start up culture. There we met with an equivalent to a Deputy Commissioner from the Cologne City government for an overview of how the City is engaging apprenticeships to replace their aging workforce.
The presentation (which will be shared when the City forwards it along) provided another layer of insight into the German model. The City provided an overview of the volume they recruit, the variety of pathways out of the German equivalent of high
school, and the pathways into government jobs. Based on educational attainment and competencies (including some entrance exams), young adults have the opportunity to maneuver across the system. It was clear though that the higher level options, like Gymnasium, Gesamtschule, and Sekundarschule provided far more mobility than the lower levels such as Realschule and Hauptschule. For example, if you leave Hauptschule, you cannot study at university. However, if you leave Gymnasium you have the option to enter into Dual VET, Vocational training, and access university.
The City of Cologne is realizing that they need to recruit new people into government service, and have increased the number of apprentices from around 200 to over 500. The City uses the apprenticeship model to rotate their apprentices throughout the various departments to allow the young adults to learn the variety of potential occupations. Another benefit of participating in government service via apprenticeship, you are guaranteed a "lifetime job" and also pay a reduced tax to the government, to offset the lower wages. Unfortunately, the city also experiences many of their workers leaving to go to a private firm where the wages are higher.
Following the City of Cologne, we enjoyed a glass of wine and cocktails hosted by Amerika House we were able to sit and hear directly from three "apprentices" (pictured below) at Koelnmesse and Incuba8 and their experiences in their pathways. We had the opportunity to record the conversation, and will post upon return to the U.S.