When the visitor discovers the ruins of the Rosenstein castle, perched on a large rock above the town of Heubach, it does not occur to him that the region before his eyes is a favorite place of engineering. Fields and forests dominate the landscape, with a few small towns scattered throughout. But Kunjan Patel, a 30-year-old Indian engineer, says it’s the wide range of career opportunities for engineers that he finds most appealing in East Württemberg, a region an hour’s drive east of Stuttgart in the state of Baden-Württemberg, southwest Germany.
“It’s an interesting region for engineers,” he explains. “There are many interesting companies here and each of them has its own style.”
About 450,000 people live in eastern Württemberg, a region more than twice the size of Berlin. This region is home to many successful businesses, including more than 300 companies specializing in instrument manufacturing, mechanical engineering and plant construction.
This makes it one of many rural but economically important German regions. According to the German government, rural regions account for about half of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), which was about 3.9 billion euros in 2022.
As young people leave the countryside for the cities, the population of many rural areas is aging even faster than that of urban areas. This means that campaigns must attract workers not only from urban areas, but also from abroad.
Migrants lack family ties
However, migrant workers lack the family ties that draw many ethnic Germans back to rural areas. They may also be reluctant to move to areas where career prospects are uncertain and worry about a less satisfying social life in a less ethnically diverse and more conservative population.
Domestic universities play a key role in recruiting foreign graduates. Patel works at Richter Lighting Technology, a manufacturer of high-end lighting systems based in Heubach, a town of 10,000. The company has 110 employees from 34 countries.
Patel joined Richter in 2019. He was hired after visiting the company with a group of international students from nearby Aalen University, where Patel was pursuing a master’s degree.
Persuading foreign students to stay after graduation is one of the most effective ways to attract foreign graduates to the region, believes Markus Schmid of the East Württemberg Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Otherwise, he tells DW, small and medium-sized businesses in the region have few ways to attract the attention of potential candidates from abroad.
This is less of a problem for large international companies based in the region, as they can afford lavish recruitment campaigns and have a strong reputation as employers. “Currently we can also meet our need for skilled workers through our activities on the international labor market,” Georg von Erffa, head of human resources at Zeiss, a large manufacturing company based in East Württemberg, told DW. .
Small businesses need to develop their own approach
With far fewer resources at his disposal, Bernd Richter, owner of Richter Lighting Technology, has had to find his own ways to build and maintain his company’s diverse workforce – sometimes at the cost of considerable personal effort. : he also happens to welcome new employees to his family home.
Richter’s approach to hiring, he says, is to “never rule anything out.” Speaking German, for example, is not a decisive criterion for him. The official working language at Richter is English, much to the delight of Kunjan Patel, who says that learning German has been the biggest challenge of his life in Germany. At Richter, employees also benefit from free German lessons.
The mayor of Heubach, Joy Alemazung, wants immigrants to feel not only tolerated, but also accepted in the city.
“When I don’t feel different when someone talks to me, I feel at home,” Mr. Alemazung told DW. He can draw on his own experience, having left his native Cameroon to settle in Germany when he was a student.
According to Alemazung, vibrant community life in rural areas can help foster the acceptance of immigrants because it offers newcomers and locals the opportunity to mingle. In this regard, rural areas have an advantage over cities, he says.
Kunjan Pateli says he is satisfied with the way of life that East Württemberg offers.
“The social life is good,” he tells DW, and many events are organized, both at work and outside. Patel also enjoys hiking in the Alb, a mountain plateau in the region. “I like to spend the summer in Alb”, he says. This must be good news for his boss. As Bernd Richter says, attracting workers to East Württemberg is ultimately a matter of finding out “who would really feel good here”./ DW
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