“Craftspeople and apprentices are still sought out”

Tom Oberweis, together with his brother Jeff, runs the Oberweis bakery founded by his parents in 1964. In 2017, he was elected president of the trades chamber; his mandate was renewed in 2022. Photo: Romain Gamba/Maison Moderne

Tom Oberweis, together with his brother Jeff, runs the Oberweis bakery founded by his parents in 1964. In 2017, he was elected president of the trades chamber; his mandate was renewed in 2022. Photo: Romain Gamba/Maison Moderne

Career orientation, training and access to the labour market need reviewal to supply Luxembourg with the craftspeople it needs to tackle future challenges, says president of the Luxembourg’s trades chamber, Tom Oberweis. 2023 is the European Year of Skills, where the accent is put on vocational retraining and further education.

Tracy Heindrichs: The Chamber of Skilled Trades and Crafts has carried out a survey on vocational retraining and education in the context of the Year of Skills…

Tom Oberweis: Yes, we did, and we found out that 44% of the companies we surveyed are looking for people with a vocational aptitude diploma [DAP], and 30% are looking for people with qualifications such as a technician’s diploma. It’s clear to see that craftspeople and apprentices are still sought out.

Do you think that the existing education options are sufficient to cope with the labour shortage in Luxembourg?

I think that to support the development of apprenticeships, new apprenticeship models will have to be developed. For example, on-the-job training, parallel training--which we have already proposed to the government--or cross-border training to attract people from abroad to Luxembourg. Our study found that vocational training systems can certainly be improved, but without taking shortcuts.


There are competence centres that take people who are not trained, for example. For us, basic training is important.

The trades chamber estimated the artisan shortage at 3,800 people. One of the issues often mentioned is communication around this type of career.

The shortage is happening in all types of sectors. But what we need--as we often tell the education ministry--is a profound revision of the guidance counselling of young people. We must work on the orientation of young people and adults towards the key skills needed in our economy.

Trades must not be seen as a path you take when you’ve failed but as a way to promote the potential of young people. This would reduce school drop-out, which is currently sadly high.

In Luxembourg, attracting trade workers is complicated...

That is what we found too. But with the expected demographic and economic growth, there will never be enough local workers in Luxembourg. We really need to think about how to attract border workers, open the borders and train immigrants--including third-country citizens. Luxembourg also needs to become more competitive again too, in terms of digitalisation, for instance. If we want to fix the shortage, our new government will have to make it a priority.

The OECD published a national skills strategy for Luxembourg in February, where it gave tips on how to improve the labour market. One solution was making Luxembourg more accessible for foreigners and their spouses. Administrative processes have been cited as a hurdle by businesses.

In the case of my company [Oberweis], we have indeed noticed problems with internationals who, after training with us, want to keep working in Luxembourg. It takes months to get the necessary work permits to hire them. The administrative process is an obstacle. This is the case for any kind of state aid: some companies don’t apply because of the administrative overload. 

This article first appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of Delano magazine.