Addressing the practical and the human

The customary international discussion of the labour market sparked considerable interest among visitors to the IBO fair in Friedrichshafen, Germany "Yes we are open - Willkommenskultur am Bodensee". Over 70 people attentively followed remarks on efforts to welcome newcomers to the Lake Constance region

The topic selected by the event's organisers - EURES Bodensee (a transborder alliance in the Lake Constance region) and the Constance-Ravensburg branch of the German Federal Employment Agency - proved to be a resounding success. Jutta Driesch, Chairman of the Board of the Constance-Ravensburg employment office, was pleased with the positive response to such a multi-faceted issue. According to EURES president Peter Kuratli, EURES Bodensee would continue to be a key source of information for the future.

Favouring an inclusionary approach

Speakers included Ramiro Vera-Fluixà of the Federal Employment Agency's International Placement Services, Ivanca Seitz of the Lake Constance-Upper Swabia branch of Baden-Württemberg's Welcome-Center network, intercultural coach Irina Wöhler and Thomas Ebel of the Institute for Social Professions in Ravensburg/Wangen. They drew on their own past experiences to present possible initiatives and explain the conditions necessary to implement them.

For Ramiro Vera-Fluixà, this includes establishing an infrastructure and networks to provide newcomers with advice and practical help. It also requires a considerable dose of patience and empathy.

Thematising a long-overdue topic

Newcomers often grapple with culture shock and must first adjust to the matter-of-fact, blunt communication style characteristic of Germans, explains Irina Wöhler. Ivanca Seitz made it a point to express how pleased she was that welcoming initiatives were finally being treated as a concrete topic. She cautioned, however, against forgetting those who have been in the region for years, stressing the importance of including them in the process.

Thomas Ebel concluded the discussion by describing how the growing demand for professional elderly care was being met by bringing in young vocational trainees from Spain. An extensive plan has been developed to ensure that "they feel at home in our region."

Anita Scherrer, EURES-Adviser Schaffhausen

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