Qualify Staff for Vacancies

REWE, Germany’s second-largest food retailer, works together with DEKRA Akademie to qualify people from different nations for the retail and logistics sectors.

Friendly employees create a pleasant atmosphere in trade. Photo: REWE

How do you find skilled workers who are open to changing shift times and physically demanding work? This is the difficulty facing food retailer REWE in Germany. The company, which operates around 3,700 REWE and approximately 2,150 PENNY stores nationwide, advertised an average of 5,500 vacancies in logistics and sales in 2021. There’s still a lack of suitable applicants, because working in retail isn’t considered all that attractive, especially among younger people, due to the working conditions. In addition, although the labor market supplies interested individuals, more and more they don’t possess the required skills. That’s why the REWE Group Recruiting Center relies on partial qualification as one way of filling vacancies in Germany.

Filling vacancies through partial qualification

According to a recent study by the Bertelsmann Foundation, companies in the retail sector in Germany are prepared to hire sales staff without full vocational training for 60 percent of their operational activities. A partial qualification provides basic skills for the job and the final certificate is recognized nationwide.

REWE relies on a complementary concept of partial qualification in Germany. This is aimed at lateral entrants who are placed via job centers. These can be people with a refugee background, but also the long-term unemployed or solo self-employed who need to reorient themselves after lockdowns caused by the pandemic. The selection is made during a four-week preliminary readiness program supervised by DEKRA Akademie.

Those who make it into the partial qualification complete two modules for the underlying occupation within eleven months, in which participants are taught the basic knowledge for working in sales or logistics. From the very beginning, in addition to three days a week of theoretical instruction provided by DEKRA Akademie, the participants work two days a week in a REWE store or at a logistics location. In doing so, they support their colleagues in stocking and pricing goods, as well as at checkout. This way, they can immediately apply the know-how they have acquired and gain self-confidence for their later job. The decisive difference to other qualifications: They receive an employment contract and a salary. “This gives them a higher appreciation for their work,” explains Dirk Hoffmann, Senior Consultant Talent Acquisition at REWE.

He initiated the project and brought DEKRA Akademie on board for the Hildesheim and Berlin sites. “It was important to us that we have an education partner who brings high training quality and extensive experience. In addition, we’re active nationwide and need a partner who is also active nationwide. DEKRA Akademie brings all of this to the table.” The DEKRA team has other important tasks in addition to the actual training. It not only finds suitable applicants, but ultimately advises on who is suitable for the partial qualification.

Integration of refugees

Many have already taken advantage of the opportunity to qualify for a new job. Photo: REWE

“It’s a win-win for everyone: The burden on job centers is lightened, while participants receive an employment contract and are no longer dependent on job centers,” says Manuel Menne-Dörner, Head of Key Account Management at DEKRA Qualification GmbH. In particular, the project offers a great opportunity for the integration of refugees in Germany. The fact that REWE benefits from the measure has been demonstrated by feedback given to Dirk Hoffmann from store managers: “We’re successfully recruiting urgently needed skilled workers for our stores. Some of these candidates would probably have had little chance of being hired via conventional application.”

Ultimately, he says, the demands REWE places on new employees are very high. “With DEKRA Akademie by our side, we give participants the support they need to acquire specialist knowledge and grow into their tasks – and everyone benefits from this,” says Hoffmann. People who complete additional supplementary modules to the two offered have the opportunity to take the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) examination in their respective training occupation. “The retail sector not only offers secure jobs, but also probably the best opportunities for advancement,” Hoffmann says with conviction.

As of the end of November 2021, a total of 26 participants have started their training at the Hildesheim and Berlin locations. Other cities will follow, and part-time qualifications are planned as well. The model will then be rolled out nationwide over the next four years.

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