What do you basically mean by craft

Image campaign for skilled trades: The philosophizing carpenter

The craft has an image problem. More and more young people prefer to do mental work. Now it's supposed to set up a campaign.

The more “spiritual” a job appears, the more respected it is perceived. This is nonsense Photo: imago / Christian Vorhofer

BERLINtaz | Jimmy Pelka is a great guy. He commutes back and forth between Bad Mergentheim and the United Arab Emirates, equips luxury cars from sheikhs and car fans and drives Porsche himself. On Instagram you can see the trained car mechanic and company boss speeding through the area, somewhere in the desert, next to him an Arab client.

Johanna Röh, carpenter, also leads an exciting life. After completing her apprenticeship, she traveled the world, worked in the USA, South America and Asia. You can see her sitting in a gown next to a Japanese master, a sensei. Now she runs an ecologically oriented carpentry business in Germany and advertises the craft on social media.

Craftsmen are cool - that is the message of an image campaign for the craft that has been running for a long time, but is always revamped a bit every year. Pelka and Röh are the newest ambassadors on social media. Before that you saw posters with a hairdresser and the slogan: “I don't cut hair. I'll save your next date ”. Or a heating technician with: “The world has never been so incomplete. Heat her up ".

“I think the image campaign is right,” says Joachim Gerd Ulrich, career choice researcher at the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BiBB), “because the campaign is not only aimed at young people, but also at the general public. That is wise, because the choice of occupation always takes place on a 'social sounding board', so it is also influenced by how third parties think about occupations ”.

The social sounding board has become hard for the craft, what many consider to be the inferior apprenticeship compared to an intellectual, a technical, a commercial apprenticeship. “The problem is the Abitur, most students want to do the Abitur today. And then it says: 'I'm not doing my Abitur to become a craftsman', ”reports Daniela Wilke, career advisor at the Federal Employment Agency in Berlin,“ and the old prejudices about the craft still prevail ”.

The number of vacant apprenticeships quadrupled

Endless work, broken knees, dust and dirt on the pants, little money and any private clients who always have something to complain about and feel great when they tip the craftsman a five-euro note - winners look different.

The image problem has consequences: The number of vacant apprenticeship positions in the craft has quadrupled within ten years by 2018, according to the BiBB. At the end of August 2019, 30,000 apprenticeship positions were still open in the craft, according to the Central Association of German Crafts. There were 368,000 trainees in 2018 in the skilled trades. And 2.8 million students.

Also due to demographics, the apprenticeship market has changed, "away from a market for companies to a market for applicants," says Susanne Eikemeier, spokeswoman for the Federal Employment Agency.

What young people want, what they expect from a job, has therefore come more and more into the focus of research. The family has a lot of influence, emphasizes Ulrich. “Parents generally want their child to have a higher or at least equivalent educational qualification than they have,” he says. Many parents who have studied do not want to have to explain to their academic circle of acquaintances that their offspring is “only” learning to be a craftsman, while the other's children are studying somewhere abroad. “The parents' need for recognition with regard to the children's education and work should not be underestimated,” says Ulrich.

Visual marketing designer sounds better than decorator

According to a survey of ninth and tenth graders at mostly general education schools, almost half of the young respondents did not consider a future job in a craft, even less so for girls than for boys. The inclination to handicrafts was even more pronounced when at least one parent had completed an apprenticeship or when there were other craftsmen among their relatives.

But there is a need to differentiate here, says Wilke. “If the parents are happy and successful in their trade, then they advise the children to do so. But if you yourself have experienced periods of unemployment, perhaps even the insolvency of a small business, then you will advise against the skilled trades ”.

The merit scares some

Earnings play a major role in this. In a study, the union-affiliated Hans Böckler Foundation came to the conclusion that workers in the skilled trades earn an average of 20 percent less than those in the economy as a whole, in which academics increase their earnings. The fact that craftsmen mostly work in small businesses, in which in some places bargaining wages are not even paid, also depresses earnings.

If you want to earn more money, you have to acquire the master craftsman's certificate after completing the journeyman's certificate and become self-employed. The Central Association of German Skilled Crafts points out in a statement that skilled craftsmen with a master craftsman's certificate can earn “about the same or even more than Bachelor graduates” in their professional life.

But the way to the master requires perseverance. And the question of image remains: not only the family of origin, but also peers, potential partners, decide on the social reputation of a profession and thus also on whether young people start training in the craft. "Many women nowadays have higher school and university degrees, they usually want men who have an equally high degree. Those who learn a trade may then fear for the opportunities on the partnership market," says Ulrich.

Ulrich also reports that young women in the university town of Heidelberg who trained as retail clerks themselves preferred to conceal their professional training and pretend to be students in order to be more interesting for the boys from the university.

Separation between mind and body

The image that a job has is often based on "the old schism, the separation between physical and intellectual work," says Ulrich. “The more 'spiritual' a profession appears, the more respected it is”. Physical dexterity, on the other hand, is not rated as highly, the surveys have shown.

In some academic professions, physical dexterity can be more decisive than intellectuality, as anyone who has ever come across a clumsy dentist knows. “Surgeons and dentists ultimately do manual work, but they always attach importance to the fact that these are academic professions,” says Ulrich. Conversely, the craft of a plant mechanic today requires very good mathematical and technical knowledge.

The association chains that an activity triggers help to determine its image, which is also shown in the statistics on vacant apprenticeships at the Federal Employment Agency. Everything that goes in the direction of dirt, waste, death is viewed worse than activities that have anything to do with culture, art, beauty. Plumbers are not as valued as goldsmiths, garbage collectors are not as respected as private drivers, butchers are not as popular as confectioners. Although society would collapse more quickly if there were no plumbers and garbage collectors than if one had to do without private drivers and goldsmiths.

“Sometimes you can improve the status of your job just by changing your job title,” says Ulrich, “'Designer for visual marketing' sounds more demanding than 'window dresser', even though it's the same profession.” It also sounds like a specialist in recycling and waste management better than "garbage man".

Ten million euros a year for the image

The image of an activity is shaped by the media. When the US series "Six Feet Under" was shown on German television years ago, about a funeral home and the exciting life of undertakers, suddenly more young people expressed interest in training as undertakers, says Wilke. “We need a really cool series that revolves around a craft shop”, she says, “otherwise you only ever see series with doctors, lawyers or an advertising agency”.

The image campaign, controlled by the Central Association of German Crafts, costs ten million euros a year, has been running since 2010 and should continue beyond 2020, according to the association. Advertisements are made with posters, advertising banners, spots on YouTube, Instagram and other social media.

Education Minister Anja Maria-Antonia Karliczek (CDU) is also working on the image of the craft. She wants to introduce the term "Bachelor Professional" as a supplement for a craftsman with a master's degree. The Federal Council is against it because a “Bachelor” is something different from an experienced master craftsman. The Federal Council proposed the term “junior professional” as a supplement to a master’s title, which immediately brought the central association on the barricades, which found it ridiculous to refer to seasoned master craftsmen as “juniors”.

However, Wilke is observing a trend reversal that is making the craft look more positive. This is not only due to the shortage of skilled workers in the trade, which many private customers now notice unpleasantly when they have to wait a long time for appointments. “When the young people realize that after completing their apprenticeship they will be able to move up in a trade, become self-employed, and then go on to study, then maybe they'll decide to start a craft apprenticeship after graduating from high school," she says.

The motto of the image campaign of the craft with the technically clever car tuner, the well-traveled philosophizing carpenter, the futuristic model maker, is: "Is that still a craft?" It is an attempt to reduce the subordination of “manual work” to “mental work” to an absurdity. And that's good.