'Sorry, I do not speak Danish' is no longer an obstacle


Overcoming linguistic barriers is a routine challenge for many employers when hiring foreign staff. A Danish company has found an innovative solution and newly recruited Polish and German employees now wear a badge which reads “Sorry, I do not speak Danish” until they learn the language.

The low unemployment rate of 3.3%* in Denmark (together with the Netherlands the lowest EU-wide), has created an acute labour shortage in key sectors. Among those most affected are drivers and mobile plant operators. Consequently, to look for low-skilled labour force abroad seemed to Arriva Skandinavien S/A to be a convenient solution for accommodating this shortage. With a staff of over 5,000, Arriva is one of the biggest Scandinavian companies of its kind, transporting annually over one billion passengers in Denmark, the UK, Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, Sweden and Italy. After the summer of 2007, Arriva was looking for more than 400 bus drivers and expected to need up to 1,600 during the following two years.
The company therefore decided to contact EURES Denmark this September, by chance just one week before the employment service launched an Info Bus Tour through Poland and Germany. Unlike the Nordic country, Germany (6.3%) and Poland (9.1%) are facing remarkably higher unemployment rates. The aim of this trip – part of the European Job Days 2007 – was to visit five cities in each country and bring Danish job advisers and employers in direct contact with local jobseekers. The ‘passengers’ promoted employment opportunities in the Scandinavian country and provided assistance for prospective employees. Arriva decided to come on board and accompany the tour with its own representative.
Being aware of the general labour shortage in Denmark, the company still had to consider the language barriers for foreign employees. To that end Arriva proposed a four-month accommodation period, during which the newly arrived workers would attend intensive Danish courses, but would still start their job as drivers – wearing badges that read “Sorry, I do not speak Danish”. The transport company was aware that Danish bus passengers were keener on being driven than being able to talk to their chauffeurs.  
Arriva’s initiative proved to be successful. More than 500 applications were received during and shortly after the tour, and approximately 40 people have already been selected for interviews. Higher salaries (Poles would be able to earn up to seven times more than in their home country) are only one of the attractive benefits granted to the applicants. Moreover, Arriva would make accommodation arrangements for the incoming workers to help them settle.
With the support of EURES, this company could successfully tackle the problem of labour shortage in their business sector. Both Peter Correll from Arriva and the Danish EURES Adviser, Jorgen Uldall-Ekmann, gave a very positive review of the Info Bus Tour. A significant number of jobseekers and employers took part in this initiative and the media coverage in all three countries involved was significant. Thanks to EURES, another company found an open road for accommodating the needs of the Danish, as well as the Polish and German labour markets.


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