Berlin bakery chain gives lesson in rolling out jobs for youths

Steinecke, run almost exclusively by apprentices, is a good example of why Germany doesn’t have a youth unemployment problem

Three Steinecke trainees at work in the trainee-run Steinplatz branch in Berlin

Three Steinecke trainees at work in the trainee-run Steinplatz branch in Berlin

Thu, Jul 4, 2013, 01:00


A century ago, a textile workers’ strike in Massachusetts gave birth to the labour movement anthem Bread and Roses.

For EU leaders racing to and from Berlin yesterday, a pit stop at a Steinecke bakery would have been just as instructive in how to tackle Europe’s youth jobs crisis as chancellor Angela Merkel’s summit.

The bright and cheery branch on Steinplatz, run almost exclusively by apprentices, is a good example of why Germany doesn’t have a youth unemployment problem.

It doesn’t have roses on offer but every kind of bread and roll under the sun, as well as something just as important, and increasingly rare around Europe: secure employment for young workers. “Training young people and getting them enthusiastic about all the variety involved in our business is a matter close to my heart,” said owner Katrin Steinecke, whose grandfather founded the firm in 1945.

“We want to give a perspective to young people beyond academic talents, to encourage them to discover the other pragmatic skills they may have, which we urgently need in our business.”


University
Just one-third of German school-leavers each year go to university; the other two-thirds enter the dual trainee programs like Steinecke’s. It has 46 trainees in Berlin participating in its programme, developed in-house, combining practical work experience – bakery, office or sales in one of 246 Berlin branches – with classroom training, social events and factory visits to learn about everything from flour to coffee-roasting. Those who complete the three-year course with good grades, assessed by the company, are guaranteed a job and a cash bonus. The trainee-run branch in Berlin is a time-consuming and costly experiment for Steinecke that goes against today’s European mainstream of state-subsidised internship programmes. But Ms Steinecke is confident that investing in new employees now generates greater loyalty in the future, securing the family firm regardless of economic cycle.


Shortage
While many EU countries haven’t enough jobs for young people, German firms such as Steinecke are struggling to find candidates and have had to step up their promotional activities.

Germany’s federal labour ministry has launched a website to improve labour mobility – jobofmylife.com – to match young jobseekers around Europe with jobs in Germany.

“People complain about lazy young people,” said Martin Hülze (37), manager of Steinecke’s trainee-run branch. “But give them a leg up and a proper perspective and you soon see they can work, and want to work.”