Axel Griesshaber said “auf wiedersehen” to his family and left Germany last month to work at a York kitchen cabinetmaking shop.
With his snowboard and luggage in tow, the 33-year-old was ready to embark on a new life in Canada and in particular, use his specialized skills at Robco Cabinets Ltd.
Last fall, Griesshaber graduated with a university degree in wood technology. Jobs are scarce in Germany, plus Griesshaber already had in mind he wanted to work in an English-speaking foreign county.
“In my field, it is really tough,” he said of finding work at home. “When I left, there was an unemployment rate of 11 per cent.”
Griesshaber applied internationally through the Internet and Robco replied with interest.
“They called me before Christmas and then we had a telephone conference call,” he said.
He kept in touch with company management through e-mails and in late January, met with owner Rob Brunner in Switzerland. Griesshaber was interviewed and learned more about the company and York.
Griesshaber received a job offer and two weeks later, he accepted a three-year contract.
“The biggest problem was to get to Canada and then I found out about this Young Workers Exchange Program,” he said, referring to the process where young Germans can quickly come to Canada to work for one year.
Griesshaber attended an informational session in Bonn where he met with Norma Duncan, the Olds mayor and vice-chair of Central Alberta Economic Partnership, and Tina Varughese-Drebit, an investment attraction officer with Alberta Economic Development, to learn more about immigrating to Canada.
Two months later, the young man from Alpirsbach — located in the middle of the Black Forest and home to a monastery more than 900 years old — was on his way to a country many Germans dream about.
“Everybody would like to go to Canada,” he said, noting some friends would like to come for a snowboarding vacation.
His first day on the job was May 12. Part of his responsibilities as production foreman are training people on the machines.
“I also check processes to see if there is a better and faster way of doing it,” he said.
The company arranged a house for him that he shares with two others. He’s noticed one major difference here.
“In Canada, it’s hard not to have a car. But it’s only 10 minutes walk to work, so I am not in a hurry to get one.”
Griesshaber plans on sticking around through Christmas — and live through his first Canadian winter. He’s already made use of his snowboard, taking it to the mountain slopes over the Victoria Day weekend.
Robco pays for an annual trip to Germany so Griesshaber can visit his mother, his sister and her twins.
While he misses family and friends, Griesshaber believes he’s made the right decision. He’ll be able to practise his already-proficient English and to use the skills he acquired through five years of university.
Griesshaber said he’d recommend such a move to other Germans.
“I think it’s always a good experience to go to a new country,” he said.