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Successful launch in Colombia

David Gámez advises skilled workers on recognition at the new ProRecognition location in Colombia. In the interview he discusses his initial successes.

AHK Colombia has been providing advice on recognition since 2020. David Gámez has been involved since June and, at the age of 24, is one of the youngest advisers on the ProRecognition team. In the interview he discusses his initial successes.

What brought you to ProRecognition at the Chamber of Foreign Trade (AHK) in Colombia?

David Gámez: I have been interested in German culture and language since I was a child. I studied German language and literature in Bogotá and alongside this worked for a number of years as a German teacher and a tour guide. On my first visit to Germany, I was totally enthralled by the country and its people. I also wanted to make it possible for people in my own country to experience this. I started to search for a job linking Germany and Colombia. And I've now been working since June 2020 as a recognition adviser on the ProRecognition project.

Colombia recently joined the ProRecognition project in 2020. What was it like launching and simultaneously dealing with the coronavirus and the Skilled Immigration Act?

David Gámez: Working and setting up guidance provision here was obviously made much more difficult due to the coronavirus. Day-to-day guidance provision was managed entirely from the home office right from the start. It is odd to start working as an adviser in a lockdown – a job which involves communication, contact with people and meetings. I have 20 colleagues at the Chamber of Foreign Trade in Bogotá and, so far, have hardly been able to meet anybody in person. I've even only met my project colleague three times! This is a real shame because regularly meeting and discussing things in person is important, and particularly at the start. However we quickly came together as a team. The coordination team in Berlin and experienced colleagues in other locations helped us set up. Since then, we've been able to provide skilled workers with effective support in terms of recognition. We are happy to have launched at the same time as the Skilled Immigration Act. 15 percent of people approaching us are vocationally qualified skilled workers for whom it is now easier to enter Germany. And the numbers are increasing.

What are your duties?

David Gámez: I advise Colombian skilled workers wanting to work in Germany and provide them with information about the options for professional recognition. Do they have the necessary German language skills? Is it a professional or academic qualification and is it recognised by the state? Which is the competent authority for the recognition procedure? These and other questions need to be clarified in advance. I then explain to the skilled workers which documents they need to complete, how to do this, and I help them to apply for the work visa. I'm also very willing to share some of my own personal experiences, offer tips on learning German and help with searching for work. Key to being successful in my work is maintaining contact with recognition stakeholders, and most of all the competent authorities in Germany and the German Embassy here in Bogotá.

Who comes to you for advice and what qualifications do they have?

David Gámez: There is a huge demand for advice. So far we have registered more than 1000 interested parties and have conducted over 270 initial guidance interviews. Unemployment has certainly increased in this country due to the coronavirus, however many of the people I advise tell me that even before coronavirus their job prospects weren't all that great. They have already been considering leaving their home country and making a fresh start in Germany for quite some time. Engineers, general nurses, technicians – any profession you can think of really. Academics in most cases already have a clearer understanding of their objectives, they have good German language skills and are aware of the current demand for skilled workers in Germany.

Who was the first person you advised successfully?

David Gámez: It was a 25-year-old psychologist with good German language skills at level B2. She was highly motivated and very quickly got together all the documents required for the Statement of Comparability. She received a signed contract of employment in the record time of just one month. The employer then followed my recommendation of contacting the “Centre for International Migration and Development” (ZAV) in order to quickly obtain the prior agreement of the Federal Employment Agency. This meant there was nothing to prevent the visa application being processed in a timely manner at the embassy. In December 2020, she travelled to Germany and today works as an education assistant for the Lebenshilfe association for people with mental disabilities and their families based in Rotenburg. The fact that everything works so well really spurred me on. I'm generally really proud that I can provide skilled workers with the best support possible as they make their way into a new life. After all, it's not every day that you simply emigrate to Europe. I see the positive feedback from the skilled workers as an endorsement of the work I do.

In your view, what are the major challenges facing Colombian skilled workers who want to emigrate to Germany?

David Gámez: The language skills required, and the cost and duration of the entire procedure. Before the initial guidance interview, skilled workers often claim they have German language skills which then turn out to be significantly overstated in the interview. This is particularly the case with the vocationally qualified skilled workers. I then explain that learning the language is a key factor for recognition. And this immediately brings us to the next challenge – costs. In addition to language courses and certified translations, you have to pay, yourself, for the documents to be sent and for the recognition procedure. With a minimum wage of currently 260 euros per month, many skilled workers very quickly exhaust their finances. The procedures also take a very long time. It takes several months to move from initial guidance to starting work.

Why do Colombian skilled workers want to go to Germany and not Spain?

David Gámez: The people in my country regard Germany as an economically powerful location for technology and innovation and see it as the better place for their professional and personal development. Then there's the incentive of learning a new language and making a fresh start in a different culture. And many Colombians now also have family members or friends who are already living and working in Germany.

What are you looking forward to most when you think about the time after the coronavirus?

David Gámez: I miss in-person contact, both with the skilled workers as well as with my colleagues at the Chamber of Foreign Trade. I am very much looking forward to this direct contact. The office has also been renovated and refurbished in the intervening period. Perfect for great guidance interviews and coffee breaks!

The interview with David Gámez took place in February 2021. The ProRecognition project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and implemented by DIHK Service GmbH and, in addition to Colombia, is represented in nine other Chamber of Foreign Trade locations: Algeria, Egypt, India, Iran, Italy, Poland and Vietnam (since 2015), and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Brazil (since 2020). Further information is available about the project in this portal and on the ProRecogniton project website.

Key information about responsibility for, and providing details on, the procedure e.g. for the reference occupation of “psychologist” is provided in the Profi-Filter and the Recognition Finder in this portal.