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Great advice in the Online-Café

In this interview, Michael Taeger from Network IQ Saxony-Anhalt discusses his initial experiences of the “IQ Café” online event format.

When did IQ launch the virtual café, and what was the purpose behind it?

Michael Taeger: At the start of the coronavirus pandemic in Germany in early 2020 we faced the question of how to now reach our target groups? This was why we switched our face-to-face formats over to online events. Our aim was to continue to provide skilled workers and businesses in particular with information about the wide range of offers from Network IQ Saxony-Anhalt. Virtual meetings with those seeking help and IQ advisers enabled us to achieve this aim. We organise the “IQ Café: Working in Germany” series for skilled workers who are immigrants. As the Skilled Immigration Act came into effect, we launched the “IQ Café Skilled Worker Businesses” format. This IQ offer is not only available in Saxony-Anhalt, but also in Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg.

How is the IQ Café different from other Network IQ offers? What is special about this format?

Michael Taeger: In the IQ Cafés we discuss questions on specific themes such as the Skilled Immigration Act or the requirements necessary for recognition as a vehicle mechatronics technician or architectural draughtsperson. We invite in experts on each theme who are able to answer the questions specifically and with a focus on solutions. Meeting virtually makes it easy to access and participation doesn't take up too much time. For events involving immigrants, we bring in interpreters as required for specific languages, such as Arabic or Spanish. 

What kinds of concerns do those seeking advice come to the café with? What role does recognition play?

Michael Taeger: The immigrants often have very general questions about arriving in Germany. Alternatively, they might wish to know how they can work in Germany in the occupation or profession in which they trained. Questions are also constantly being asked about continuing vocational education and training measures. Businesses often have questions about the Skilled Immigration Act or want to know how they can appoint a foreign skilled worker as quickly as possible. At the height of the pandemic enquiries were frequently received from both target groups concerning the financial support options available to help get through this difficult period.

The theme of recognition has a key role to play in all of the IQ Cafés. All aspects of recognition advice are discussed: the process involved in the procedure, questions about the German reference occupation or the documents required, etc.

How exactly does an event run in terms of the IQ Café? 

Michael Taeger: Firstly, IQ introduces its offers in short presentations. This often takes just a few minutes. But this phase must not last too long in order to prevent people from leaving. Overall the IQ Cafés last for no more than 90 minutes. Following the introductions, those seeking advice have a chance to talk about what is concerning them and to ask questions. Either they receive advice during the event itself or our experts give more time to complex issues after the Café. In some cases this occurs immediately after the event in private chat rooms. Where required, however, a separate appointment can be arranged in order to address specific issues.

Given your experience, do you believe the online cafés will be able to replace offline events?

Michael Taeger: No. We're aiming for a hybrid solution comprising face-to-face and online events. Sometimes seeing each other is just better. It means you are able to interact more easily and provide help in a more immediate way. However, we also want to continue to offer the online cafés because they have been so popular.

How often does the online café take place and where can those seeking advice find out about it?

Michael Taeger: We use our various social media channels to provide information. We've been establishing these for many years for specific target groups on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. This has also allowed us to reach people directly during the pandemic. This year there will be 10 IQ Cafés for people who are immigrants and six for businesses. All the information is available on our homepage and a Facebook channel: Network IQ Saxony-Anhalt

The interview with Michael Taeger took place in the summer of 2021. As coordinator of press and public relations, he is responsible for the public presentation of offers of the Saxony-Anhalt IQ regional network

Key information about responsibility for, and providing details on, the recognition procedure e.g. for the German reference occupations such as “architectural draughtsperson (m/f)” is provided in the Profi-Filter and the Recognition Finder in this portal.