Wilfried Hüntelmann, Photo: Agentur für Arbeit

“An Unbelievable Amount is Happening in Digitization Right Now”: An interview with Employment Agency Head Wilfried Hüntelmann

There is a rule of thumb for gauging the impact of the job market on happenings in the startup scene: The better the job opportunities are, the fewer people found new companies. Employment agencies should be particularly familiar with the correlation. We had the opportunity to speak with Wilfried Hüntelmann, Head of the Munich Employment Agency. Hüntelmann previously headed the employment agency in Göppingen.

You have been head of the Munich Employment Agency since September last year. How is your work different here compared to Göppingen?

Munich’s Employment Agency is the second largest in Germany in a city with over one million inhabitants. I consider it a particular challenge, one that is also interesting. Munich is one of Germany’s most successful big cities and is also one of the leading economic hubs by international standards.
It is particularly the combination of large enterprises, SMEs, small startups and traditional handicraft businesses that makes our work here so multi-faceted and interesting.

It is similar to the Stuttgart area, which also includes the Göppingen district, with its excellent job market that puts the focus on retaining skilled employees, training and qualification. It was never boring there either.

The startup scene is flourishing in Munich. What do young technology companies mean for the job market in the city and region?

Technology startups are important for our job market because they contribute to the dynamic character of Munich as a business location. In turn, that is good for Munich since it attracts “high potentials” and investors. Depending on the growth of the company, it also creates a need for employees. I would then like to gain those companies as clients.

“We should really use every option”

The unemployment rate in Munich hit a historic low of 3.5 percent in May 2018. How difficult is it for companies to find suitable employees in such a situation?

As is the case in other areas as well, many Munich enterprises are desperately looking for professionals. And the list is quite diverse. Everyone knows there are shortages of caregivers, IT specialists or mechanical engineers, but workers are also needed in food service, construction and several handicraft industries. That is why we try to get our clients qualified where it is necessary, especially when they have not completed vocational training. There are also areas of potential that we absolutely want to tap into: women after raising their families, older individuals, the long-term unemployed or also severely disabled persons, who are often very well trained. We should really use every option.

The firm founding activity in Germany has been decreasing continuously for years. Does that have to do with good employment opportunities?

Yes, a good job market typically plays a role in such a case. Starting a new business is always an individual decision, however, individuals who consider it important to have security, regular work hours and vacation entitlements are currently more likely to opt for a permanent position as opposed to starting a business.

Startup grants and consultation

How do you support individuals on the path to starting a business?

If a person who worked in a job where social security contributions were mandatory becomes unemployed and would like to become self-employed, they can receive what is known as a startup grant.

A startup grant aims to help unemployed persons start their path to self-employment. Assistance is provided in two stages. For the first six months, the amount provided for the grant is equal to the unemployment benefits most recently granted plus 300 euros for social security, for example for health insurance. In the second stage, 300 euros can be granted for an additional nine months if proof is provided that the entrepreneurial activities are being carried out full time.

In the fiscal year 2017, we approved roughly 1,300 applications for startup grants and employed a total budget of nearly 15 million euros. We are investing a similar amount again this year.

In addition to financial support, it is important to develop a good business plan and acquire further necessary knowledge: What are the entrepreneur’s obligations? What are my rights? Which legal form should I choose for founding, and what is the best way to communicate my ideas to customers? These kinds of questions are answered in a startup seminar. During the seminar, clients are equipped with the tools they need and are able to communicate with other like-minded participants during such well-attended courses.

Nonetheless, before you decide to start a business, it is best to come to us for comprehensive consultation. Our experts analyze each case individually and will plan subsequent steps with you.

When you mention the employment agency, many think of dusty file folders and old software. How digital is the agency in reality?

It might be that those kinds of images still exist in some people’s minds. What is clear, however, is that an unbelievable amount is happening in digitization right now, and quite a lot has been done in recent years at the employment agency.

Our job board is our premium product, one that has existed for quite some time and is Germany’s largest job portal. We also offer further online services. For example, you can register online as someone who is looking for employment. Services will be expanded gradually in all areas. The main emphasis is on information and monetary transfers.

Overall, we were already able to significantly expand our services last year: Major improvements were made, especially in terms of reach and rate of use. While our online services might have been based more on administrative structures in the past, our clients’ needs are now the focal point. It is important to me to mention that personal consultation is still the main focus.

Many thanks for the interview, Mr. Hüntelmann!