Pratap Shinde: Working & studying with a recognised Diploma
Pratap Shinde’s way to Germany was all but a simple journey. When the design engineer started applying in 2017, access to the job market was still restricted for vocationally qualified professionals. With the recognition of his Diploma and new immigration laws, things changed. In the interview, Pratap shares how he not only got a job, but also continued his higher studies in Germany.
ProRecognition: Pratap, your journey of going to Germany is full of twists and turns. But how did it all begin?
Pratap Shinde: I completed my Diploma in Mechanical Engineering from Pune. Afterward, I worked for about five years with multiple companies in the automotive sector in India. In my first job, my trainer was a Spaniard who had just completed his Master’s from a German university. With him, I had many interesting discussions on various technical topics. He also shared his experience of studying in Germany with me. I think that day, I decided to go to Germany. Thus, and started my research and also enrolled in a German language class.
After you made this decision, what did you do?
Actually, I wanted to continue my studies in Mechanical Engineering, especially in the automotive sector. So, I looked for universities and applied to multiple programmes. However, it turned out that my education wasn’t recognised. Consequently, all of my applications were rejected. The same thing happened when I started applying for jobs. Although I got calls for interviews, without professional recognition I wasn’t able to get a proper opportunity. I realised that this was an issue I had to solve before I could go to Germany. Therefore, I tried to find information on the internet but very little pertained to people with vocational qualifications. Fortunately, I came across ProRecognition at an information event at the Goethe Institute.
“ProRecognition’s guidance and the workshop gave me confidence”
When you first interacted with ProRecognition, what were you looking for?
I was hoping that ProRecognition could help me with my main issue: the recognition. Therefore, after the first meeting, we had a couple of discussions on the recognition process for my Diploma. On top of that, I attended the application workshop by ProRecognition. And that changed everything.
The workshop was very comprehensive. We got specific information on how to apply in Germany, how to prepare a resume and motivation letter. So, I learned a lot. Before that, I found it very difficult to find suitable opportunities. I was applying blindly, just using the information on the internet. However, ProRecognition’s guidance and the workshop gave me confidence.
So were you able to directly find a job afterwards?
Unfortunately, back then candidates with vocational qualifications still had limited access to the German job market. However, ProRecognition informed me about the PuMa project, a point-based model project by the German government. Admission to the project would make me eligible for an employment visa. Hence, I started doing some more research on the project and eventually contacted the project team. Since I had a B1 level in German and work experience, I qualified for admission and was assigned a consultant. This consultant explained me how I could apply for positions. He also created a profile for me on the job portal of the Federal Employment Agency. However, there was still one more issue: I still didn’t have the needed recognition of my qualifications.
So, how did you resolve this issue?
My consulted again advised me on the recognition procedure. Basically, all I had to do was to collect the necessary documents, including the syllabus from my university. Once I submitted these, I received a notice that I had to pay 500 EUR for the application. Then, I waited. Yet, three months later I still hadn’t received any feedback. Eventually, I called up the IHK FOSA and was transferred to the person handling my application. I explained her my situation, and we ended up discussing my full profile. For example how long the course was, what subjects there were, whether this course was completely theoretical or practical. I also gave information about my previous employment, my current role etc. All this, I explained in German. That seemed to have helped because within only a week I finally received my recognition certificate with full recognition.
So today, you are a fully recognised “Technischer Produktdesigner” (technical product designer).
Once you received the recognition, what were your next steps? Did you notice a difference?
First, I updated application documents by including the information about my recognition. Then, I created individualised motivation letters according to the job profile and applied from India. I realised that with this recognition certificate, I received job interviews very fast and frequently. It was obvious that with the recognition, companies could understand my exact education and professional background better. So, I attended a couple of interviews and even almost got a job offer. But unfortunately, at that time I couldn’t start the job due to some family concerns. Nonetheless, I kept pursuing my goal.
Next goal: Mastering the language
So how did you eventually make it to Germany?
Actually, in 2019, the PuMa project came to an end. However, my consultant informed me that from 2020, the immigration laws would come into force. Thus, he told me to just wait for another year. However, I didn’t have the patience to do that. So instead of waiting for a job, I applied to a couple of universities with my recognition certificate. I chose a course at OTH Regensburg, for which you have to learn German till C1 level for one year. Since I had an interest in continuing to learn German, this seemed like a good opportunity. And through this, I finally came to Germany on a language visa in October 2019.
For the first three months after my arrival, I fully focussed on immersing myself into German language and culture. In university, I even made some German friends. From them, I got some insights that I hadn’t found on the internet, but which only known to locals or student groups. As per those, I started applying and secured some job interviews. I made it a point to give interviews in German or both German and English. Since my domain is mechanical product development, German language skills are very important.
“From the employers’ perspective, B1 is just not enough to handle business”
Why is that?
Actually, I realised that in many companies, German is the working language. For large international companies, that may not be the case, but especially family-run businesses prefer working only in German. That is especially true in my field.
And also, there are a lot more small and medium-sized businesses in Germany than big multi-nationals.
Exactly. Before going to Germany, I had completed level B1. This knowledge of German is essential to survive here in Germany. However, I would not say that it provides you with many opportunities in the mechanical domain. With B1, you can communicate with your colleagues and your landlord, or you can buy tickets. It may even give you some interviews. But at least in my case, for all interviews I scored, I got a rejection notice a couple of days later. From the employers’ perspective, B1 is just not enough to handle business. I understand that today. Nowadays, I coordinate with team members from the manufacturing department, who don’t speak English. Therefore, being able to communicate in German makes everything more convenient.
What kind of job profile are you in now?
Currently, I’m working in product design. My company is developing a sensor product for the automotive domain. For this, I need to coordinate with the production and R&D teams well as the supply chain department. Thus, I communicate with people across the entire company. For this reason, I feel that the last five, six years of learning German were really useful.
In your opinion, what is the minimum German level needed to work in your profile?
If the company has a German work culture, you would need at least B2 – not only the certification but real communication skills. Many of my friends have this certification but they’re not confident to speak.
Design engineer during the week, student on the weekend
Thankfully, at this point in time, you already had advanced German skills. Yet, you still hadn’t started working. How did you find your job?
As I said, for the first few months after my arrival, I focussed fully on my language course. However, after about six months, I again started looking for jobs. Whenever I found a relevant job posting, I would prepare a customised application – like I had before. However, this time I wouldn’t just wait for the company to get back to me. Instead, I directly called HR and discussed my profile, asking my real questions about the position. I believe that this played a major role because the recruiter understood my profile and heard me speak German. Thus, they understood that even coming from India, I spoke German fluently. And with this strategy, I finally got a job in September 2020.
In fact, today you don’t only work in Germany, but you are also a part-time Bachelor student. Tell me more about that.
The course that I’ve enrolled in is a special program for professionals with a vocational qualification in a mechanical engineering trade and work experience. The process was quite simple. I only contacted the international office who referred me to the professor responsible for admission. So, I simply dropped an email to him and took an appointment for an interview. During this discussion, we spoke about my profile and interest in the topics. He also explained the course structure, how to attend classes, what research topics would be covered etc. Fortunately, the university found my profile very interesting and granted me admission.
What kind of residency status did you have to take to do that?
Actually, when I was doing the language course, at that time I had a language visa. When I got my job offer, I informed the immigration office and changed my status. Then they gave me the work permit for full-time work. With this, I can work and also do part-time studies or any other activity.
“Without a detailed plan, you can’t do anything”
It’s inspiring to see how after the many hurdles you’ve overcome, you eventually achieved your goal. Of course, today it is much easier for candidates with a Diploma to go to Germany. Nonetheless, what advice do you have for your peers who want to follow your example?
If someone has a profile similar to mine, then I would suggest the following. First of all, you should start with your own research. Decide what you are interested in and which profile you want to work in. Because without a detailed plan, you can’t do anything. When I did my own research, I found out where I was lacking. For example, I lacked German skills, so I enrolled in a course and tried to improve. If you want to go to Germany, you need good German skills. Technical skills will only get you so far. Thus, only if you have good German language skills, companies will hire you.
Next, I’d recommend to get the recognition. The recognition certificate is extremely beneficial to get a job or do your studies.
Finally, I would suggest, be very diligent with all paperwork. Whether it’s for an application or the visa, having neat documents is very important in Germany.
And one more tip: Make it in Germany is a great platform for gathering information. Everything you need to know is available there. Thus, there’s no need to waste time on the internet finding contradicting information.
Thank you for sharing your experiences and your tips, Pratap. All the best!
(The interview was held in March 2021)