Spotlight on a new life in Norway

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Barbara Schützeichel, an electrician from Germany, is part of a growing wave of Europeans keen to find work and a new life in Norway. Around 36,000 “job immigrants” are expected to settle in Norway this year, and in Schützeichel’s case, she had a TV crew with her.

A film crew from German television station ZDF was filming electrician Barbara Schützeichel's every move, as she greeted prospective colleagues in Norway and considered a permanent move. PHOTO: Stein J Bjørge

Schützeichel’s prospective move to Norway is being closely monitored, indeed nurtured, by the German television channel ZDF, which has launched a sort of “reality” program featuring Germans willing to test out the job market overseas. ZDF has sent, for example, a veterinarian to New Zealand, a real estate broker to Tenerife and, earlier this month, electrician Schützeichel to Nord-Trøndelag in Norway. Her entire trip and work try-out period in Norway are being filmed, and the program is expected to be viewed by around 5 million Germans.

Norway's great outdoors is a major reason that electrician Barbara Schützeichel, at age 51, is pointing the way to a new career outside her native Germany. PHOTO: Stein J Bjørge

Oslo-based newspaper Aftenposten picked up her story and reported on both the filming of her experience with prospective colleagues in Norway and job immigration itself. Even though immigration rules are strict and new immigrants in Norway often find it hard to find jobs in their field despite Norway’s purported labour shortage, Schützeichel has a lot of advantages. Since she’s coming from a country within the European Union, she doesn’t face the restrictions immigrants from countries outside the EU or European Free Trade Association countries do. And she has a trade that’s in demand: Aftenposten noted that last week alone, there were 117 relevant and available jobs for electricians like her.

Schützeichel herself seems at least as attracted by Norway’s open space, scenery and egalitarian society as she is by the prospects for plying her trade. She currently runs a small electrical firm in Berlin but says she’s been thinking for a few years about looking for work outside bustling Berlin, where she claims she still faces a certain degree of prejudice because she’s one of very few female electricians. In Norway, she said, she felt she’s been met with more respect.

“It’s a completely different attitude,” she told Aftenposten. But she also said she’s dreamed about living close to Norway’s “fantastic nature.” Schützeichel, age 51, has spent holidays in the mountains of Hardanger and in the southwestern part of Norway, and said just waking up every morning and looking at the fjord and mountains in Nord-Trøndelag filled her with enthusiasm.

She said she won’t decide on an actual move to Norway until the filming of the ZDF TV show is over, and then she seemed most keen on moving to Trondheim. Moving from Berlin to a small city like Steinkjær in Nord-Trøndelag may prove to be too tough a transition.

Ongoing need in specific fields
Meanwhile, state statistics bureau SSB predicts an ongoing need for more people like Schützeichel in Norway. Engineers, health care workers, pre-school teachers, bus and truck drivers and building trades experts are most in demand, according to SSB and employment agency NAV, and many of them may be recruited from countries like Germany. Poland has long been a source of skilled labour as well, and some local transit firms in Norway have been actively recruiting bus drivers in Poland and other European countries after they complete intensive classes in the Norwegian language.

Almedina Jahre, who heads recruiting from Europe for NAV, said there’s been a big increase in job immigrants from Germany. German authorities say a total of 155,000 Germans emigrated in 2009, while the number coming to Norway has tripled over the past 10 years.

“The Germans seem to thrive in Norway,” Jahre told Aftenposten. “They integrate well and learn the language quickly.” Schützeichel said she’ll study to learn Norwegian if she moves to Norway. “That’s critical,” she said. “I’ve had a chance to test how it might be to work in Norway. Now we’ll see whether it’s just a dream, or whether it can become reality.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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