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Without Apprenticeships, Migrant Germans Lack Career Opportunties


This week, NPR has been exploring what life is like for Muslims in Europe - this, at a time when image of Muslims has been co-opted by small number of violent extremists.


Our colleague, Audie Cornish, and a team from All Things Considered have been visiting three countries in Europe with large Muslim populations, the U.K., France and Germany. We're hearing from our colleagues based in Europe as well, including Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Germany, which is home to about 4 million Muslims.

GREENE: Many were born and raised in Germany. But they are often not embraced by German society or the workplace. A recent study found young Germans with immigrant roots, especially Muslim ones, are often passed over for the nation's coveted apprenticeship spots. Soraya has this report from Hamburg.

BURAK KARAKUS: (Speaking German).

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Learning how to talk to clients is an important part of Burak Karakus's training at this Hamburg-based commercial trading company. The 23-year-old, German-born son of Turkish immigrants is an apprentice in the export business. He says it wasn't his first choice of a career. What he really wanted to do was become a businessman in the automotive industry. But Karakus says after applying for at least 150 apprenticeships in that field, he gave up. He says in two years, he could barely get an interview - let alone a spot - despite earning high scores on his exit exams from a top-tiered German high school.

KARAKUS: (Speaking German).

NELSON: "I would apply 10 times to the same company in one month, just to show them how interested I was," Karakus says. "But I never heard back. And each time when I checked the website, it would still say help wanted." Karakus is hardly alone in Germany.

AYDAN OZOGUZ: (Speaking German).

NELSON: Aydan Ozoguz, who is the country's commissioner for migration, refugees and integration, says young people with Arabic or Turkish-sounding names have a much lower chance of landing an apprenticeship than those with German-sounding names. That can be a career killer, as apprenticeships are vital here if you want to join a trade. A Bertelsmann Foundation study released in January backs the commissioner's claim. It found that while a quarter of young Germans have foreign roots, 85 percent of German companies offering apprenticeships aren't training any of them. The study also found only one in three of such companies ever trained an apprentice with immigrant roots. Claudia Burkard is the project manager in charge of the study, which looked at about a thousand companies.

CLAUDIA BURKARD: The great majority of the companies, about three-quarters, told us that it's because they don't get applications from young people with migration backgrounds. But it doesn't seem very plausible, as other studies and surveys show that the application behavior of young people with migration backgrounds doesn't differ significantly from those without.

NELSON: She says companies' reservations are based on misplaced fears.

BURKARD: It's more that the fear of language barriers means that companies shy away from the risk of having an apprentice who might fail or quit because of language difficulties.

NELSON: Burkard says German companies should be strongly encouraged to train immigrants and see their capabilities rather than presumed deficits. She adds the government must also help young Germans by guaranteeing vocational education. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.