Navigating the administrative jungle can be a challenge, no matter whether you've only just decided to set up your own company or you already have an established business. By providing a "Single point of contact" and a Welcome Service, Unternehmensservice Bremen supports entrepreneurs and businesses alike by answering questions and helping them overcome the challenges they face.
But what is the Unternehmensservice Bremen exactly, and what does it do? Who can turn to them for advice and what support is available from the teams at Unternehmensservice Bremen? We interviewed Agnes Knelangen and Manuel Kühn and put these questions to them. Both work in the Unternehmensservice at Bremeninvest and have different key areas of responsibility.
Unternehmensservice Bremen is a joint project run by Bremeninvest, Handelskammer Bremen (Bremen's Chamber of Commerce), Handwerkskammer Bremen (Bremen's Chamber of Trade), the RKW (the German Centre for Productivity and Innovation) and Bremen's Senator for business, employment and Europe, and is located in the Chamber of Commerce premises at Hinter dem Schütting 8 in Bremen. With its two key areas of expertise, the "Single point of contact" and the Welcome Service Bremen, it can provide entrepreneurs and business people with the answers to the most important questions concerning every aspect of registering a business, administrative processes, recruitment and staff retention – all under the same roof.
Unternehmensservice Bremen was founded in 2011 with the remit of being a "Single point of contact". The starting point was an EU Services Directive which, among other things, was designed to simplify the bureaucratic requirements faced by EU citizens who wanted to register a business in a different EU nation. The purpose of the "Single point of contact" is to support entrepreneurs from the European Union with the all the administrative processes.
"Nowadays, we're not just helping people from the EU", explained Agnes Knelangen, "Single point of contact" Project Leader at Bremeninvest. "Anyone who wants to register a business in Bremen can come to us with their queries. We process business registrations, signed and sealed, just like the Business Registration Office". So why should someone go to the "Single point of contact" instead of the Business Registration Office? Quite simply because the advisors at the "Single point of contact" are able to guide entrepreneurs through every step, from their initial plans to registering their company. The advisors can accept business registration applications directly, in person, and are fully involved in the approvals process.
The advantage? By having direct contact and individual discussions with clients, the team at the "Single point of contact" can answer practical questions, set processes in motion and provide help when specific challenges or problems arise. Unternehmensservice Bremen's extensive network of contacts enables Knelangen and her team to put their clients in touch with exactly the right people, as and when required. "Talking to people in person is important", explained Knelangen. "Many questions and issues only come up during a discussion. Our customers may come to us with a specific query. But this often leads on to other questions and sometimes, it becomes clear that quite different requirements are involved."
"We see ourselves as multi-cultural, open-minded and inclusive." Agnes Knelangen
An additional plus point is the linguistic expertise of the team at the "Single point of contact“, which means they can respond to customers' requests in a number of different languages. "The languages we speak include English, French, Italian, Polish, Russian and Armenian. We see ourselves as multi-cultural, open-minded and inclusive. This means we can overcome the initial reluctance felt by people who don't speak German", stated the Project Leader. It also means that people who are looking for help don't have long to wait. "All they need to do is call us or send us an e-mail and we'll arrange a meeting as quickly as possible – either in person or, increasingly, online, because of the Covid situation."
After the "Single point of contact" came into being in 2011, in response to the EU Services Directive, the topic of recruiting specialist staff from abroad was added to it in 2014. The Bremen Fachkräftestrategie 2019 (Bremen's strategy for skilled workers from abroad) and the Skilled Labour Immigration Act 2020 have increased the focus this subject.
Specialist staff from other countries and the companies that want to employ them are faced with quite specific administrative challenges and complex questions which require targeted advice. Working together with Germany's nationwide Integration through Qualification network, the partners of the joint Unternehmensservice Bremen project decided to set up the Welcome Service. "The aim was to support skilled workers and managers coming from abroad, and also entrepreneurs from other countries who applied to the "Single point of contact," explained Manuel Kühn, Project Leader at the Welcome Service.
Like the "Single point of contact", which helps entrepreneurs navigate the questions and bureaucratic processes involved with registering a business, the Welcome Service acts as an advisory service for the companies and skilled employees from other countries that contact it, by providing answers to their specific questions and putting them in touch with the right contact persons and government bodies.
The team working with Manuel Kühn uses the collective knowledge about every aspect of recruiting specialist staff from abroad, which it has built up over recent years, to meet the needs of those who ask them for support. "Initially, the idea was that people would come to us with questions about everyday life such as how to register a car or find somewhere to live. But specialist staff and the companies were actually more interested in legal questions, such as: how to get a work permit? what type of visa is required? how to get a foreign qualification recognised?"
Residency, work permits, recognition of qualifications from other countries: the expertise provided by the Welcome Service Bremen is focussed on these three main areas. However, in addition to the legal questions that specialist staff from abroad have about living and working in Germany, there is another aspect that is just as important. This is how to integrate successfully into the local environment and everyday working life. "The importance of cultural and intercultural integration, in both the domestic and social spheres, is often underestimated, and we're here to provide advice for this", said Kühn. To aid this process, the Welcome Service has put together a guideline for companies and also a guideline for specialist staff from other countries, which illustrate the breadth of options for integration that are available. The Welcome Service team's extensive network of contacts can also help people with specific questions and requirements such as German language courses for overseas staff, or finding the right contact person.
The Bremen Fachkräftestrategie 2019 (Bremen's strategy for skilled workers from abroad) and the subsequent German Skilled Labour Immigration Act 2020 made specialist staff immigration much more topical, and also increased the prominence of the work performed by the Welcome Service. "The Skilled Labour Immigration Act greatly reduced the legal requirements for staff from overseas, to the extent that people can now come and work in Germany with a vocational qualification", explained the Project Leader. "This wasn't previously possible. Coming to Germany to work, with a vocational qualification, just wasn't so easy unless there was a shortage of people with your particular skills. In 2020, everything was made much easier and the job market was also opened up to include trainees."
The breadth of knowledge and the network that the team at the Welcome Service Bremen now shares with its customers continues to grow. The Unternehmensservice can now offer a truly extensive range of information and contacts. The socio-economic situation also plays a significant role in the work of the Unternehmensservice: the changes to the law, and to personal and professional situations, resulting from the Covid pandemic, and the current conflict in Ukraine, have created new issues and challenges for which the Unternehmensservice can provide support. "You have to be able to react quickly, and adapt to situations like these", explained Manuel Kühn. "All the knowledge and information we have gathered over the years is a great help here, as is the extensive network we have built up over this time." And Knelangen added: "It's thanks to the network that we are so closely involved with that we can get to know about new issues so quickly. We immediately add this information to our web site, so it's available to everyone."
Whether entrepreneurs now need administrative support in registering their business, or companies need advice about employing skilled workers from other countries: all the services provided by the Unternehmensservice Bremen are free of charge. To arrange a meeting, either call +49 421 163 399 450 or send an e-mail. The chat bot on the Unternehmensservice Bremen website can provide an initial response to any queries.
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