Working together: Policy makers and representatives from companies, chambers and business associations cooperate to recognise foreign professional qualifications

On 11 January 2013, policy makers and representatives from chambers of commerce, companies, public authorities and migrants’ associations came together for a conference entitled “Skilled workers – Transparency – Respect: tapping the domestic pool of skills” at the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) in Berlin. The participants discussed new approaches to assessing and recognising foreign qualifications and exchanged their experiences.

Berlin, 28 January 2013 – “Meeting the demand for skilled workers is a major challenge for policy-makers and business leaders, and it’s a precondition for growth and prosperity in Germany”, said Ernst Burgbacher, Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. “If we are to meet the demand for skills, we need to recognise foreign professional qualifications. Only if there is transparency about the course content of their qualifications and employers understand what skills they have acquired, can foreign-qualified workers integrate into the German labour market and society”, he continued.

Experts from Germany and abroad

State Secretary Burgbacher had invited many speakers and experts as well as about 150 representatives of chambers of commerce, business associations, companies and other institutions to Berlin to discuss ways of enhancing this transparency and tapping the pool of qualified professionals in Germany. Dirk Werner from the Cologne Institute for Economic Research, Cornelia Großmann, Equal Opportunities Commissioner at the Federal Employment Agency, Hilal Fatma Dinç from SC electronic service GmbH and Nihat Sorgeç from Bildungswerk Kreuzberg GmbH were among the speakers offering important insights for the discussions. Viggo Haarløv of the Danish Recognition Agency and Christian Råbergh, National Coordinator of the Swedish ESF programme talked about approaches to recognising foreign qualifications in their countries, and many company representatives shared experiences from their everyday work.

Tapping the domestic pool of skills

It became clear very quickly that it is worthwhile assessing and evaluating foreign professional qualifications, even though this may be challenging. After all, there are about two million people living in Germany who have acquired a professional qualification abroad. Many of them do not work in their field of expertise because their qualifications have not been recognised. The participants agreed that Germany needs to tap this huge hidden pool of skills, especially in the context of the current shortage of qualified professionals. For this purpose, they are planning to cooperate even more closely in the future and exchange their experiences and know-how. “After all, Germany will only be able to keep up with global competition if there is a sufficient supply of qualified professionals”, Burbacher stressed. “To ensure that, we have to tap all of the resources available.”

Sharing experiences

In four “think rooms”, the participants dealt with the manifold practical aspects of foreign qualifications. One group used a number of case studies to discuss possible approaches, for example. “After all, it’s not easy to compare the qualification of a zoo technician from the former USSR with the German vocational training course for animal caretakers,” a participant said. Other groups learned about experiences in other European countries in the recognition of foreign qualifications or talked about opportunities for small and medium-sized companies. “It was fascinating to see how different companies approach the subject of qualified foreign professionals. I have definitely gained valuable insights”, one of the participants commented.

The significance of respect and recognition

Dr. Armin Nassehi of the University of Munich stressed that it is extremely important to integrate foreign professionals into the German labour market. “The German term Anerkennung means both respect and recognition, so we’re not only talking about the formal recognition of qualifications but also recognition of competence and skill in the sense of respect or esteem.” Mr Nassehi suggested that this approach might also be a useful test for future immigration policy decisions.

The BQ-Portal – a networking opportunity

In future, the participants will not have to limit themselves to sharing their experiences and know-how at conferences: since April 2012, the BQ information portal for foreign professional qualifications has been online at It offers comprehensive information on foreign professional qualifications and supports assessment authorities and employers in the evaluation of qualifications obtained abroad. Relevant decision-makers can refer to the BQ-Portal to find important information and guidelines for assessment practices, while companies and employers are able to get an idea of the qualifications of applicants who acquired their professional credentials in another country. The information available is currently being expanded significantly, and both groups are now able to network and exchange their experiences and know-how. The insights offered by the conference will also contribute to the BQ-Portal.

About the BQ-Portal

The BQ-Portal is designed to assist assessment authorities and companies in assessing and evaluating professional qualifications obtained abroad. At the heart of the BQ-Portal are the country and professional profiles, which provide comprehensive information on foreign vocational training systems and professional qualifications. The BQ-Portal also offers background information on assessment practices in Germany, opportunities to share and network, guidelines for assessments as well as advice and training sessions for registered users. The BQ-Portal forms part of the actions of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) in the context of the Qualified Professionals Initiative and was launched in September 2011. The BQ-Portal’s build-up is scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2014.

BQ-Portal (German):
BQ-Portal (English):

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