Green card holders are heading home in search of work

One year ago it was still popular to look for a job in the US. Now the situation has reversed: many IT specialists who had left their home country want to come back again.

          One year ago it was still popular to look for a job in the US. Now the situation has reversed: many IT specialists who had left their home country want to come back again.

          Wirtschaftsförderung Region Stuttgart, an organisation for the promotion of trade in the Stuttgart area in Germany, has set up a web page that makes job-hunting easier for those wanting to return home. With the support of 25 partner companies from a wide variety of markets, the site launched at the end of August under the motto "Our boys are back."

          Two years ago, a dream came true for Heinrich F: after his studies in computer science at the University of Karlsruhe, he found a job in California's Silicon Valley. "The first year was fantastic. The morale among the employees was excellent, we were earning well, and, because of the stock package, we were even earning very well," the computer scientist remembers. "But in November of last year, the situation changed radically: when the first market quotation sank, the company dismissed the first employees, the morale sank. Over time, the working climate turned around by 180 degrees. I've had enough. I want to go back to Germany again!"

          And Heinrich F isn't alone. Around 20,000 other Germans who are currently living in the US want to leave the country. They are looking for a new job -- no matter where, because as far as mobility is concerned, there are (almost) no limits. But wouldn't it make sense if those willing to make a change were to find their way back to their home hearth and put their experiences and knowledge at the disposal of German companies? At least, that's what Wirtschaftsförderung Region Stuttgart was thinking. After all, there are currently 20,000 positions open for IT specialists in Baden-Württemberg, some 4000 of these in the Stuttgart region alone.

          Stuttgart: An attractive place to work

          The trade promoters experienced the problems of many Germans during a US trip that they made in May of this year together with trade promotion organisations from nine other German cities and a total of 18 showpiece companies from throughout Germany. The journey led the delegation to California's Silicon Valley, where they met with some companies in the area, many venture capitalists and an interested public who enthusiastically took part in the discussions. Among the guests were also some Germans whose situations look similar to that of Heinrich F. "To be honest, we were surprised at how openly the people talked about their experiences and also their problems," says Veit Haug from Wirtschaftsförderung Region Stuttgart. "Although most of the Germans did not even have to fear for the loss of their jobs, they did not want to live in an environment with such a frosty climate anymore."

          Arriving in Stuttgart again, Haug and his colleagues did not wait long. In no time at all they rounded up a few companies from the region to discuss the following idea: a job page that German IT specialists living in the US could use to find jobs in the Stuttgart region. The 25 businesses, among them companies as large as Robert Bosch, Debitel, Porsche or T-Systems, were enthusiastic about the idea. "The Stuttgart region offers a very high quality of living and very many good working places that are secure for the long term, above all in the IT branch. But when someone thinks about IT locations in Germany, it's usually cities such as Munich, Berlin or Hamburg that come to mind -- usually nobody talks about Stuttgart," says Haug.

          This should change with the launch of the internet page. "The Stuttgart region is absolutely predestined as the working place for IT specialists. For one reason, because of the many supplier companies and for another because of the intensive research and development work being carried on in numerous computer centers and laboratories," explains the trade promoter.

          The search for qualified personnel is difficult

          The Stuttgart IT consulting company VirCinity, for example, grew out of a research project. The team, which now has 15 members, is known for its virtual reality software Covise. "With our programs, we can throw a car against the wall virtually, for example, or calculate wind currents," says executive director Martin Zimmermann, pointing out the company's main area of competence. VirCinity's customers are mainly in the automobile and machine construction branches. "For the technology that we're using, we need people whose knowledge lies somewhere between engineering science and development. Because this has not been taught at any college until now, it is very difficult to find qualified employees," explains Zimmermann, one of the executive directors at VirCinity. This is why the company will take part in the project being initiated by the trade promotion organisation.

          The IT consultants from Stuttgart have already tried a fair number of methods to gain new employees. For example, the virtual reality specialists hired two green card holders from Romania. A Spanish physicist has also been working for the company for a short time. "While we are negotiating with a few Germans that we met on our US trips, we are always looking for qualified people, seeing as we want to increase our staff by 20 to 25 people in the coming years," says Zimmermann.

          An all-around carefree package for the reintegration

          Zimmerman is especially pleased that the trade promotion organisation sees to it that a comprehensive relocation service is offered to the Germans willing to change. "Because the trade promotion agency is responsible for 168 cities and communities, we are naturally not able to do that by ourselves, but we have spoken to the cities of the region to ask that they support us with welcoming packages and services," Helmuth Haag, who heads the marketing and communication Department at the trade promotion organisation, explains.

          "It is really our goal to make the new beginning easier for those returning home with an all-around carefree package. Because, after all, everyone knows how difficult it is to reintegrate oneself," adds Haug.

          Zimmermann knows these problems well: "Our Romanian green card holders had real problems finding apartments, the official channels were a torture because they ran from pillar to post. The biggest surprise, however, was when they found out after half a year that the Romanian driver's license was only valid in Germany for six months."

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