In Poland, Margareta Marek was a trained environmental protection engineer. In Germany, she was a single mother with no training and without a job. Today, the 34-year-old is once again working in her profession—all thanks to the Recognition Act.
“Finally I have a proper job and am gaining professional experience,” says Margareta Marek with delight. Three years ago the young lady from Poland never believed she would be able to get so far. Her success is primarily down to the Recognition Act.
She had actually completed professional training in Poland. Margareta Marek is a trained environmental protection engineer—however in Germany this job title does not exist. Following a divorce in 2012, she was a young divorcee with a young child in Germany. And had no work. “At the job centre they first of all suggested I should work as an office clerk.” she explains. But she could see straight away that this would not be right for her. That she now once again working in her actual profession is all due to the Recognition Act which came into force in 2012. The act makes it easier to have professional qualifications obtained abroad recognised in Germany. It came just at the right time for this young woman seeking work. “It meant that I suddenly had an opportunity,” she says. “Even if it didn't seem like that immediately.”
Margareta Marek really values the practical relevance of the dual vocational education and training. However, her own professional training had been almost entirely theoretical. It was this that caused the problem when she decided to have her training recognised in Germany. With the help of her advisor at the job centre, she tried to gain recognition as a sewage engineering technician—this was the German occupation which was most similar to her Polish environmental engineer qualification. Because she was lacking practical experience, she initially received notice of partial equivalence from the IHK FOSA (Foreign Skills Approval): To start with she was hugely disappointed. However the Recognition Act provides the opportunity to compensate for substantial differences within five years. This meant that following a ten-month placement she was able to gain full recognition.
Margareta Marek knuckled down to the task. She was writing applications for more than six months before she found an internship position with Nortorf municipal works, just a few kilometres from Neumünster: “That's how it usually goes in life. Just as you want to give up, a solution appears.” A solution which turned out to be much better than expected. Margareta Marek’s work on the placement proved to be so good that the municipal works appointed her on 1 May 2015. “I've not been to the job centre since, and I no longer need benefits.” she says proudly. “It's what everyone dreams of: working in your occupation, earning your own money and not relying on support.” For her, however, the most important aspect is the colleagues who welcomed her warmly and supported her from the start. “I've met really good and friendly people and I'm very proud to work with them.”
This article is an extract from the booklet “Promoting initial and continuing education and training programmes and initiatives for supporting effective VET” Under the umbrella of the “Professional Opportunities” [“Chance Beruf”] initiative, the BMBF brings together programmes and initiatives to ensure the high status and quality of the vocational education and training in Germany.