The importance of following company rules
The Association New Danes has developed a general Card of Competences in collaboration with companies within low skilled industries in Denmark. These industries are characterized by having a large share of employees with a non-Western background, as well as being industries where many refugees and migrants with a non-Western background find their first job in Denmark.
In the Municipality of Odense, the local job center, responsible for helping different groups of unemployed citizens finding their next job, established a collaboration with between IKEA Odense and the association Neighbourhood Mothers. The main purpose of the collaboration was to establish internships in different departments of IKEA Odense for a group of refugees and immigrant women with limited Danish skills and limited to no work experience from the Danish labour marked.
During a collaboration, the general card of competencies was revised by the project partners. The purpose of the revision was to ensure, that the Card of competences included the relevant transversal skills, enhancing the women’s chances of getting a job at IKEA Odense at the end of the internship.
The project partners decided to keep all of the existing transversal skills including:
- Motivation and engagement
- Language and communication (language and non-verbal communication skills)
- Personal competences (relations to co-workers and customers)
- Interpersonal skills (attentive and helpful)
- Independency (initiative and responsibility)
- Personal appearance
- Quality of work
- Understanding and execution of instructions
- Order and tidiness
In addition, the project partners decided to add the following transversal skill to the list of valuarable transversal skills to enter the Danish labour market:
- Understanding and following company rules
The reason for this addition was, that the project partner found, that the lack of this understanding was often the main reason for misunderstandings and discussions during the womens internships, irritating and frustrating managers and coworkers. The new skill Understanding and following company rules usually referred to the following subtopics:
- Understanding and acting according to the rules of sick leave (when and who to call in sick and just as important, when not to)
- Planning and managing private appointments with doctors, caseworkers, teachers etc. outside working hours
- Abiding to the rules for use of mobiles phones at the workplace.
All of the subtopics regards the individual woman’s ability to balance family and working life according to har employer’s expectations, and for many of the women, this became one of their main issues during their internship.
One of the reasons for this issue, was that the women’s strong family identity combined with their lack of experience with and understanding of Danish workplace culture made them prioritise doctors appointments, phone calls from spouses and children during working hours, staying at home with children that might not actually be sick etc. over their training at the workplace. This came across as a lack of engagement or motivation to work and left many of the managers with the experience that the women did not take the internship serious.
On the other hand the challenge for the women was that many of these rules are considered self explanatory by Danes, and thus are often unspoken and very hard to translate and follow if you do not get help decoding and translating them - or as is the case for most of these women - did not know these rules or understood why they were that important.
The women that managed to accommodate these expectations and to comply by these rules - with or without help from their supervisors or coworkers - as well as demonstrate the other valued transversal skills, were the women who had the biggest progression and success during their internships. These women were also the ones offered a part time position or a salary subsidized position at the end of the their internship.
How the company is involved in integration
Deutsche Telekom is a German telecommunications company that operates several subsidiaries worldwide, including the mobile communications brand T-Mobile. It participates in an initiative by the European Commission, Employers together for integration to support labour market integration of refugees and newcomers focusing on their skills, talents and competences.
The Company evaluates positively transferable skills of the newcomers and focus on the training and job opportunities to take advantage of their background, at the same time that provide German language lessons.
The Company offers concrete opportunities for refugees to help them to enter in the labour market through different actions, such as:
- Internships: providing paid internships (3-6 months) for refugees that are structured around concrete learning outcomes. The internships can take place even during the asylum application procedure. A special website was created to show the internship and job offers for newcomers and refugees.
- On-the-job training: On the job training is a method of teaching the skills, knowledge, and competencies needed for employees to perform a specific job within the workplace. In this case, the company provides specific places for refugees, combining them with language training and bridging programmes in cooperation with the German Federal Employment Agency and the Office of Migration and Refugees.
- Jobs: the development of the program Praktikum plus Direkteinstieg combining internship and direct entry positions in order to allow refugees to adapt to European working life, together with two other German companies and the German Federal Employment Agency.
- Career guidance:
- offering general information about the German labour market and possible careers paths to refugees on the online platform handbookgermany.de
- beginning the online job search platform www.careers4refugees.de in cooperation with Jobware and Jobstairs.
Deutsche Telekom also supports refugees and newcomers in developing their skills to enter and remain in the labour market by means of:
- Scholarships: providing scholarships for refugees at the Telekom-owned University of Telecommunications Leipzig, promoting information technology and telecommunication expertise.
- Application Trainings: providing learning materials for application trainings for refugees.
- Supporting trainers and supervisors in understanding refugees backgrounds and needs in the context of internships and apprenticeships.
- Post-placement support for refugees by volunteer employees (peer to peer), after they start working at Deutsche Telekom, to ensure sustainability of employment and continuing personal and professional advising. Also, Telekom employees act as mentors for refugees and regularly help them learn German. Participants receive course materials developed by Telekom – free of charge – so that they can share their new skills and knowledge with others. Related to this, Telekom also relies on cooperative alliances when it comes to helping employees who offer voluntary service and support to assist refugees. One new project involves the "train the trainer" concept developed by Telekom recruiting staff in cooperation with the Haufe Academy. These volunteers train fellow employees and others who want to help.
To end, the Company make efforts to create an environment that promotes inclusion, both in the workplace and beyond, through:
- Exchanges between employees with and without migrant backgrounds through round tables, networks and buddy programmes
- Promoting volunteering through acknowledgment via special leave to staff who support integration outside work.
- Subscribing to the Diversity Charter in Germany (launched by German multinationals).
- Active participation in the initiative Wir zusammen (“together”, a platform formed by big companies to integrate refugees) and thus promoting co-operation amongst companies in order to tackle the issue of refugee integration into the labour market.
Improving fluency in French while learning about the business culture
The French Foundation FACE – Acting against exclusion - has developed Entre voix as a complementary action to those, formal and non formal, existing for the learning of French such as the courses delivered by associations and training organisations. Entre voix has been co-financed by the General Directorate for Foreign Nationals in France.
Entre voix consists of hours of conversations between a French worker employed in a company that is part of the FACE network and a refugee or a newcomer. They practice professional French in pairs. But it also aims at exchanging about the knowledge of the business world and more widely the access to employment. These hours of conversation are also an opportunity for both parties to learn about each other's culture and to develop professional and human relations that are essential for the integration into the host society.
The frequency of appointments varies according to the pair: weekly, bi-monthly or monthly. Pairs are encouraged to meet at the workplace of the employee, in order to allow the refugee to become familiar with the working environment.
During this period, members from FACE, ensure that conversations run smoothly and provide support to facilitate exchanges in case of misunderstandings or difficulties in scheduling appointments. Telephone calls with employees and refugees are regularly organised to ask them about the progress.
In order to carry out these conversations, educational materials were produced by the Greta du Velay, a training centre. They are given to the pair to facilitate the exchange, they include:
- 5 thematic leaflets to facilitate 5 hours of conversation. These sheets contain suggestions of topics for discussion, with proposals of activities and some vocabulary to guide participants.
- 2 practical sheets, one for the employee, the other for the refugee, to explain the framework of these hours of conversation, and answer any questions and possible concerns.
- 2 follow-up sheets, one for each, so that they can give their opinions and suggestions at the end of each hour and on the whole programme.
- 2 illustrated folders to give the above detailed materials to participants.
As part of the project, the conversation hours process and tools have been presented to companies and beneficiaries during a one-hour presentation. Then a follow-up by pair has been organised, for a total duration of 3 hours over the exchange itinerary.
This action has been experimented in 2018 in four areas (Paris, Calais, Saint Etienne, Montpellier) with 62 pairs trained and more than 310 hours of conversation.
Newcomers find that the conversations were very useful on a professional level to discover the business world in France, to develop their vocabulary, to refine their professional project, to work on their skills and to find a job. 96% "strongly agree" that the topics covered were interesting and adapted to their needs. Many believe that this has given them the opportunity to develop their professional network and their knowledge of the different professions that exist in France. The main difficulty they encounter is the lack of fluency in French to express themselves, as well as to read and write in French.
Some testimonials of both parties:
A newcomer participant with FACE Côte d'Opale: "My mentor was super nice to me. We talked about a lot of things, we improved my CV and we wrote my cover letter. Even with language problems, we are still able to do a lot of things. I am happy to have learned and understood how the labour market worked in France."
A migrant from FACE Hérault: "Thanks to these hours, I was able to plan ahead, understand what is expected by the company and above all understand that I am capable of it.”
Human Resources Manager, Casino: "An enriching experience for him and for me. It is necessary to deepen the topics discussed. The device could be extended."
Tax lawyer, Casino: "Good exchanges, no difficulties encountered with my partner."
Technical Executive, IBM: "Interesting and often funny exchanges with a young person full of enthusiasm and optimism. A beautiful encounter that allows me to better understand the life and difficulties encountered by migrants and also the richness they can bring".
Technical Executive, IBM: "I get a better understanding of migrants' backgrounds and the difficulties of their daily lives".
Manager Technical Sales Solutions, IBM: "The first concern with my partner was to successfully enter the company. We therefore focused on finding training adapted to the position we were looking for and on the success of the job interviews.”
Project Manager, IT Department, IBM: "I didn't have any difficulties with my partner, who was very affordable and in demand. The added value of our exchanges was the oral and cultural exchange.”
How to face lack of language mastering and cultural differences through dialogue
DMA is an Italian medium company producing measuring instruments for railway infrastructure. They design, test, improve and perfect every solution in-house, thanks to a highly specialized team of system designers, engineers, and mathematicians. They are attentive to the development of human resources and open to new projects and collaborations.
They recruited a Pakistani refugee for cleaning services and the experience has been positively evaluated: after a six-month internship period, he has been inserted with a regular permanent contract.
The main difficulties encountered regarded language skills and different cultural codes. The worker had a very low Italian level; after obtaining his A2 certificate during the internship, he stopped attending formal language courses. So he continued to show language gaps. Moreover, being assigned to a woman as a supervisor, he had difficulty to accept her as his responsible.
The company used the following strategies to face the problems:
- English, which is widely spoken in the company, was used as a vehicular language. Despite the refugee has not either a good mastery of English, this made communication with his colleagues easier and more immediate.
- A wide use of pictures was made in instructions, so as to make understanding easier
- He was supported, for a certain period, by a male colleague who played the role of mediator, accompanying him in the process of acceptance of his female supervisor.
The company was also able to make arrangements in the management of timetables during the period of Ramadan or for the usual Friday prayer. Thanks to the mutual intention to collaborate and the ability to modulate the company's needs with those of the worker, it was possible to mediate on differences, facilitating the meeting, respect and enhancement of the cultures knowledge. Through mutual knowledge and dialogue, the relationship has changed over time, becoming a closer bond, based on mutual respect for roles and mutual trust.
How part-time traineeship can be a quick access to acquisition of language skills and employment
Migrants’ poor Italian knowledge in a company requires a strong commitment by the employer, such as use of a vehicular language, use of interpreters/mediators, translation of safety information, manuals, organization of peer-groups, learning investment, etc. Few employers are ready to such an investment. Yet the practice confirms that learning a foreign language is easier when the learner is placed in a working context where s/he can practice language skills and receive constant and stimulating feedback. For this reason language courses should be combined with part-time employment.
It is the case of the Italian company Pasta & Company Group, 60 employees, working in the food industry. They have a long and excellent story of hiring new immigrants and refugees with a low level of Italian. They started in 2003 with Romanian workers (when Romania was a non-EU country) achieving excellent results and thus replicating the good practice with African migrants/refugees in the following years. Since 2015 they have been recruiting with permanent employment contract more than six workers coming from Benin, Congo, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Togo. The working involvement of migrants starts with a six-month paid internship with a part-time schedule (in most cases remuneration for the first three months is covered by the inclusion training paths, while the last three months are paid by the company itself). The part-time work commitment allows them to attend a formal Italian course while they are not at work. After the internship, those being under 30 are hired with an apprenticeship contract, which has a strong compulsory training component; so they can benefit from the training hours provided by the contract, also for the improvement of Italian.
Immigrants are included in all production phases: washing of raw materials, cooking and felling, mixing and processing of pasta, up to the pasteurization and final packaging. Different tasks are assigned on the basis of their respective skills, level of literacy and ethics: those with higher literacy can be assigned to labelling; Muslims are not assigned to meat processing, to prevent problems. Until today it has not been possible to assign any of them to commercial tasks, because these positions require high mastery of Italian and excellent soft skills, which they lack.
In the company experience, immigrant/refugee workers are an example to other employees, for the willingness and self-denial they devote to work; so their integration has a positive impact on the business climate and productivity.
The main features of the success of Pasta & CO are:
- combining part-time work commitment with language learning,
- remuneration during the traineeship,
- assignment of tasks on the basis of workers’ ethical values and competences,
- task-rotation (workers can try different tasks and learn more competences),
- workers’ autonomy in organising work shifts.
How to teach technical skills and specific language on-the-job
Symposium Osteria Enoteca, a restaurant and wine tavern, is a micro company made up of young, motivated personnel who are attentive to diversity management policies.
They recently hired a Kurdish refugee as assistant cook. The insertion of a foreign worker was not properly sought, but it happened in a rather random way, through a personal contact with a local charity organization, which presented the candidate. He was placed because of his soft skills and previous cook experience. The guy started to work on traineeship (with the salary paid by a local Foundation) and was then employed with a permanent working contract.
The main problems faced by the company were related to language and culture differences: the guy did not know the Italian technical language (names of ingredients, tools, verbs related to the art of culinary) and did not know how to prepare the courses, not having any experience on Italian food, traditions, recipes and tastes. So it was necessary to teach him technical language and professional information on-the-job. Several simple techniques were used to help him improve his technical Italian: adhesive strips with the Italian name of tools were stick on the wall and kitchen equipment/furniture; photos made and saved on mobile phones with specific labels; all work processes were repeated aloud by native colleagues with emphasis on the names of objects and verbs used; the preparation of the recipes was accompanied by the story of local tastes and culinary traditions; continuous corrective feedback was given and in case of need English was used as a vehicular language. The Italian staff used listening and dialogue based on mutual respect. This generated a bond of trust and collaboration that made the difference. This way of relating produced significant added value by improving the business climate and encouraging the work team to work together to solve problems by taking on the task as a team.
Symposium does not explicitly adhere to CSR models, but it operates in a socially responsible manner in an unconscious way. It is inspired by principles of genuineness with respect to the quality of products in relation to both food and wine. It does not make distinctions of origin or gender: people who need and want to work, who are motivated and willing to learn, willing to commit themselves and serious are well received. The success story of this micro company teaches that soft skills and motivation may be more important than technical ones and language and communication problems may be solved with a good deal of creativity and patience.
Never underestimate consequences of different cultural codes
Anna, a job coach tells us a story which reveals how religious and ethical values of a worker with different cultural codes can impact on the work performance. A Muslim boy she had accompanied in a social integration path started an internship as a waiter in a restaurant, where he was well received and had good relations with colleagues. Aware of his religious beliefs he was assigned to serve the tables, so as to avoid him any possible contacts with pork meat. Despite the excellent reception received and the positive working climate, he felt uncomfortable. During an evaluation meeting with the coach, he explained the reason for his discomfort: he could not send home the money he earned in the restaurant because such money appeared to him dirty, not being “halal”. Pork dishes were prepared in the restaurant and although he was dispensed from preparing them, he felt that the money he earned was dirty because of the presence of pork (feeling of guilty). The coach listened carefully to the young man's discomfort and tried to tune in to his needs and feelings. Finally they found the best solution: the coach would have replaced monthly his “dirty” money with other "clean" banknotes. This simple exchange of banknotes set him free from his inner cultural conflict.
A refugee trainee was placed in a hotel of a large chain. He did his job very well, but he often went out an hour earlier. When he was asked why he replied that, once he had completed his assigned tasks, he did not want to remain at work in order not to be paid more. He didn't know that the salary is not hourly. His behaviour was perceived by his chief and colleagues as unfair, instead it reflected high ethical principles of fairness.
A newcomer low-skilled worker during his traineeship used to take his shoes off at the garage. What for him was a form of respect for the company was a big problem of safety at work. It was necessary to explain him the reasons why he had to wear his shoes: to protect himself from possible accidents.
Prevention of misunderstandings by communicating
Omar is a Syrian man working as an unskilled worker in a kitchen. In the beginning of his employment, he would never eat with his co-workers at lunch break. Instead he would insist on staying in the kitchen while all other staff and his manager had lunch together.
In Denmark, it is considered rude and socially awkward not participating in the social lunch breaks, but even though both co-workers and manager tried to convince Omar to join their lunch, they never succeeded in convincing him. Omar’s manager found this to be peculiar, and when the situation kept on repeating itself, he felt the need to confront Omar.
When confronting Omar, it turned out that he was very uncomfortable with the fact that the lunch breaks also involved the manager of the kitchen. Omar explained that in Syria where he comes from, eating together with managerial staff is not common, and that he considered it his duty turning down the offers to come eat with the rest of the staff. In Syria, he explained, actually accepting the offer would be seen as overstepping and as a sign of him not paying respect to the manager.
When the manager understood that Omar’s lack of participation in the social lunch breaks was not caused by the fact that he did not like his co-workers, but that he actually abstained from participating because he tried to pay his respects to the managerial staff, he was surprised, but also relieved.
The manager and Omar had a long talk about the unwritten rules and expectations in a Danish work place, and the manager explained that in Denmark, it is a common practice for managerial staff and employees to eat together – the workplace is not as hierarchy-based as in Syria. Even though Omar found it a bit uncomfortable to begin with, he began to join the social lunch breaks, and he is now thriving in the workplace and the manager is very content with his employee.
How training courses can deal with intercultural competences
Moltivolti, an ethnic restaurant and co-working space, was founded in Palermo in 2014. It was founded by a group of 14 people, from 8 different countries. They employ people from different cultures because they see a great opportunity in cooperation with different backgrounds and different points of view. However, a clash of different cultures may cause difficulties even at a very welcoming workplace. This challenge is linked to cultural differences and insufficient or not optimally targeted management and communication. To deal with it, Moltivolti was involved in the REST Project (Refugee Employment, Support and Training), led by Landkreis Kassel (Germany) funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) of the European Union.
The Company did a training course dealing with intercultural competences. During the course, the staff had the possibility to reflect and express their vision about different aspects of culture and religion influencing the work. Religion was the most discussed topic on the training. In the past, the employees encountered difficulties to understand the company rules and some inter-cultural issues affected negatively the daily work. For example, late arrivals at the workplace or specific behavioural restrictions related to religious affiliation (for example, Friday prayer). The REST training topics that Moltivolti focused on were: intercultural communication, management of religious aspects, cultural differences, multicultural teams, conflict resolution and integration at the workplace.
The managers of Moltivolti realised that in the daily management they do the mistake of taking for granted some expectations regarding common behaviours of the staff. They forgot to clarify those expectations to the international staff – explaining them the culture of the hosting city and the needs of the customers, in such a way facilitating the common understanding. Concerning their religious practices, managers understood that both have to find compromise to better deal with those issues. They started to consider planning religious holidays or the whole month of Ramadan in advance, speaking frankly and fix an agreement that matches their request and the needs of the business.
So, success way of managing cultural diversity in this sense has to include explaining the norms of the organization at the same time that people have the opportunity to express their vision. In a democratic and intercultural process, the enterprise will incorporate cultural and religious practice to reach agreements between the employees and the needs of the business. It’s important that information and rules are clear, to facilitate that everybody can adapt to them, and the same time that encourage collaborative problem solving in cross-cultural teams.
Managers and workers need to avoid any stereotyping and generalisation. Managers should always emphasise the need of seeing people as individuals and taking into account specific circumstances.
Hiring employees with limited language skills
In Denmark, it is extremely difficult for refugees with very limited language skills to find employment. Most employers require at least some knowledge of either Danish or English, and in most cases, transversal skills are not enough to be employed. However, in some industries, the demand for unskilled labor is so high and the requirements for doing the work are limited, and under these circumstances a company may employ a refugee with very limited language skills.
The large Danish enterprise De Forenede Dampvaskerier (DFD) is a great example of a company, that has hired refugees despite their very limited language skills. The company is a leading Danish service company within textile laundry and rental. With 12 locations throughout Denmark, DFD is a nationwide company with approximately 1,200 employees who serve customers in all industries. It has been a challenge for the company to recruit enough qualified and motivated personnel, and this has made the company realize that it has to look to other groups of people in order to be fully staffed at all times – even if these groups of people have extremely limited Danish language skills. The company has had great success with recruiting newcomers with limited language skills, most likely because the tasks are extremely simple and do not require much Danish language knowledge. Moreover, a lot of refugee women are very experienced with doing laundry and ironing etc., and the work tasks that they are supposed to do are thus not unfamiliar to them. However, to DFD, the most important parameter when hiring new staff is motivation, not formal skills. In this way, the recruitment strategy of DFD also seems points to an awareness of transversal skills.
Employability and labour market integration program for refugees
Eight IKEA Group markets (Austria, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK) have started programs that help refugees gain work experience, develop new skills and integrate into their new communities.
The Employability Program for Refugees is a training initiative in IKEA stores which aims to improve refugees’ capacity for inclusion in the labour market and their integration into the society. IKEA works in conjunction with the refugee aid NGOs and national departments of employment, migration and social security.
Specifically, the programme comprises a five-week training placement in the store, which provides refugees with the resources and tools to improve their employability in the retail sector, and to encourage their present and future integration into the labour market. In addition, it gives IKEA’ workers an opportunity to work and develop in a diverse, plural and socially-conscious working environment.
For most refugees, the workplace situation is new and unfamiliar – they first need to learn about the new processes and work culture. To speed up this process and make it as efficient as possible, a good “onboarding” system is important. It is also recommended that refugees are very closely supervised, especially in the initial period. At IKEA, these two elements are part of the introductory process for any new employee.
Within the framework of the Labor market integration program for refugees every new employee is also given an introductory timetable structuring the initiation phase and setting dates for regular feedback and follow-up meetings. In addition, every new employee is given a kind of mentor/buddy to act as their point of contact during the introductory period, someone who looks after and supports their new colleague.
These measures are particularly important for refugees, because they need very close supervision, especially at first. The better the introductory phase is organized, the better and faster they reach the required standard in their work.
The biggest hurdle is initially language. Many refugees cannot speak the national languages and the compulsory language courses funded by the state or municipality usually only teach basic knowledge. For refugees it is useful to work closely with local employees to improve their language skills and understand all the processes of the daily working routine.
The central element of the mentoring is the matching process, that is, bringing together mentors and mentees. Finding well suited mentoring pairs is essential for the successful development of the mentoring relationship and therefore demands particular attention and sensitivity.
To obtain a good match, special attention is paid to occupational (e.g. sector, type of training) and regional factors (e.g. target markets of the company, region of origin of the mentee) as well as language skills. The objective of the mentor activity is to ensure a mutually enriching exchange.
One of the most rewarding aspects of mentorship is the development of a cross-cultural friendship. Culture is a dynamic and often amorphous entity. It is a set of values, beliefs, assumptions, language, aesthetics, ideas, and expectations that are shared between people from a similar geographical and historical space. It is formed by the collective experience of many and it informs the experience of each participant. While each of us is in part a product of our cultural heritage no one is a cultural paradigm perfectly embodying every aspect of a given culture. Each of us stands both in and in contrast to our own culture.
For IKEA, one of the fundamental pillars of the mentoring is raising awareness among the workers of the situation of refugees and anchoring the programme in their commitment to equality. According to the feedback received from those who have taken part, the stores and the individuals who have participated to the mentoring feel that they have acted as ‘agents for change’ in their communities, easing the process of including these people in the labour market and in society in general.
The support provided by IKEA mentors has made the programme an authentic and innovative supported-employment experience. Programmes such as the one developed with IKEA are very important, since they can be considered as an intermediate stage, linking training to entry into employment, which is necessary for the integration of the refugees into society.
Positive impact of migrants on labor productivity
It is a large Italian company with more than 1,000 employees, belonging to German Freudenberg Group. Around 4% of their workforce are non-EU immigrants, coming from 20 countries (two of them are refugees and one is an asylum seeker). Their managers are specifically trained on diversity management because diversity is considered as a value for the corporate growth and competitiveness.
Recruitment depends on the corporate needs for skills and strong motivation, being thus focused on technical and transversal competences of candidates. As a result of the ethnically diversified workforce they report positive impact:
- Better working climate: living in close contact with people from far countries, with different cultural backgrounds, promotes greater understanding and acceptance, thus facilitating the process of inclusion of migrants in the territory.
- Increase in productivity: foreign workers have lower rates of absenteeism than native workers (total corporate rate is around 4%).
The company is among the winners of the Welcome UNHCR project for the years 2018 and 2019.
A well prepared preboarding can result in more value for the company hiring refugees
SETA is a medium-sized public-private company working in green services. In 2019 it participated in an integration project, placing two young refugees on an internship of 3 months, which was followed by a fixed-term contract of 9 months (with the intention to stabilize the two workers). The company board weighed the decision to join the project very carefully, given the social context of reference which is characterized by a high rate of native youth unemployment. Once taken the decision, they have carefully prepared a preboarding programme.
The first step was a preventive risk analysis on the possible impact of two refugees in the company, focusing on communication and relation aspects. Considering the type of work required to ecological operators, the company evaluated in advance the possible problem of impact of Ramadan; this issue was discussed directly with the two African candidates during the job interview in a delicate way. Both of them ensured the ability to operate even in extreme conditions (during the period of Ramadan, easier shifts would be guaranteed for them). The placement was made on the basis of:
- an objective approach focusing only on the competences needed by the company (refugee workers are like all others apart from the need to give more attention to linguistic and communicative aspects)
- mutual trust between the company and the workers (integration pact).
The second step consisted in preparing employees and teams to work with new refugee colleagues. A two-hour training session was organized by a migration expert, to raise the whole company's awareness of the issue of refugees; the following themes were dealt with: real data on numbers relating to the entry flows of non-EU immigrants into Italy, the problems migrants have to face during their migration project, types of migrants (refugees, asylum seekers or protection) and the Italian reception system with the reference legislation. The training was provided to trade union representatives, company managers, direct heads of the two new trainees and other company profiles considered as key persons for a successful integration. The presentation of the two refugees’ integration project proved to be strategic, thus avoiding possible oppositional attitudes in the workplace, linked to the principle of "Italians first". The role of the tutors assigned to the two young trainees was decisive for their successful integration.
The three main positive aspects of SETA inclusion experience, as highlighted by the HR head, are:
- Improvement of work performance: the dedication and motivation to work inspired other colleagues, resulting in a decrease in hours of absenteeism.
- Improvement of corporate climate: colleagues are happy to work in the same team and shift of the young Africans workers, who are full of strength and physical energy and work hard.
- Strengthening of corporate cross-cultural competences: the refugees helped their Italian colleagues to overcome stereotypes and prejudices, as well as understand their real life (past and present) by making many of them aware that the information they learn from media may be incomplete or partial.
The main elements of this successful experience are:
- Strong commitment of the board of the company
- Objective competence-based approach
- Preventive risk analysis and management
- Information and training for company staff to prepare them for the entry of the two workers
- Welcoming programme
SETA is among the winners of the UNHCR Welcome project in 2018, obtaining the award of Company working for refugee integration.
L’Isola di Ariel
L’Isola di Ariel is an Italian social cooperative working with disadvantaged people like psychiatric patients and newly migrants, mainly asylum seekers (85% have not received a title of protection, yet and many of them have the appointment with the Refugee Commission in 2020). This being suspended in a sort of limbo generates lot of frustration. Professionals from L’Isola di Ariel manage the whole process from the first reception till the social and work inclusion. Their care methods are strongly influenced by antropological and anti-psychiatric approach. As an example they take the practice of setting the table with patience and care, as a symbol of the relationship with the other, from the long experience done in the social-health field (in an apartments of psychiatric groups the operators carefully prepares the table and waits patiently for the guests sit to share and learn to prepare the table for themselves and others). From the consideration that a laid table facilitates dialogue and relationship, this cooperative considers food as a powerful social mean to promote exchange, contamination among people with different cultures. Food may be also a catalyst for social and work inclusion. Newcomers need to be helped to build their self and this is easier if they are included as soon as possible in a social and working context. Qualifying migrants and asylum seekers in the field of cooking is a way to provide newcomers with self-empowerment and work empowerment. The sooner they are inserted in a working context, e.g. in traineeship or volunteering, the sooner they improve their language and soft skills. Three inns specialized in Mediterranean cuisine (”La Locanda Clandestina” – ”Clandestine Inn”) have been set up in Torino, where multi-cultural teams work and food is a contamination of Mediterranean and ethnic cuisine.
Another similar project carried out in Piemonte is “Food for Inclusion”, which is the result of a partnership between the University of Gastronomic Sciences and UNHCR. Courses are specifically dedicated to refugees and asylum seekers, based on cooking techniques, mixed-race kitchens, and gastronomic traditions from the world.
Corporate internship and mentorship programmes
Another example of successful labour inclusion of refugees in Denmark is the corporate internship programmes that have been initiated in international companies such as Novo Nordisk, IBM, Ørsted, and Roche.‘We want to contribute to the society, and in addition to this, we are always looking for talented people, no matter where we may find them’, states Anders Vikkelsø, Senior Vice President in the unit Grid Operations, Distribution & Customer Solutions hos Ørsted.
The internship programmes help the refugees to view their competencies in a Danish context, which make them regain the hope that they will succeed in building a career in Denmark. In addition to this, it helps them get a foot inside the industries that are usually difficult to enter.
Anna is a trainer and professional accessor who helps newcomers and refugees to find quickly a job. She explains their methodology to actively involve them in preparatory training for work and how to overcome barriers.
"85% of users have law education with a limited use of IT. Since their prime objective is to find a job2, education and training are perceived as less important; neither they are motivated to learn to use a PC (they can do almost everything by a smartphone), which may be a problem on the workplace and for the active search of a job and many are not aware on the importance of learning Italian as a key asset. With such a target, classic teaching methods are generally nonperforming: active innovative learning is required. The orientation labs organized by Tenda professionals result effective. They combine collective meetings, face-to-face individual meetings and customized assistance in preparing CV.
Collective meetings are a mix of action-learning, simulations, role playing, discussions where trainers use social theatre approach. An important focus is given to the discussion of case-studies, decoding of job advertising language (which is generally too technical) and cultural aspects of working life which may be hardly understandable by non-native Europeans. People from certain Asian or African cultural backgrounds are not comfortable saying no to their chief or declaring they did not understand and so they do not ask for clarification and commit mistakes: theatre simulation is a good tool to discuss on such themes. CV is generally perceived as something of little importance; even when they have an excellent one, they do not show it during the interview or present it as a crumpled or wrinkled paper taken from their pocket.
Face-to-face meetings are necessary to explore needs, expectations, fears, doubts, write a good-effective CV and build a confidence relationship. During the traineeship, returns to collective meetings are organized to share experiences and problems faced. The success key is the confidence building process, which requires time, active listening and empathy and it is not surprising if migrants keep call their accessor chief or “mama” (in case it is a woman)."
1. The SPRAR is the Italian System for Protection of Asylum seekers and Refugees. From 2019 on, it is being substituted by SIPROIMI (System for Protection of Beneficiaries of International Protection and non-accompanied Minors).
Volunteering to accelerate integration, in addition to taking advantage of the various opportunities to learn the language
"When I arrived in France with my husband and son, I was pregnant. I only knew a few words of French : "hello, goodbye, thank you, I don't understand". I had studied music in Georgia. I had worked for 11 years as a teacher in music school and in primary school for singing lessons. As soon as I arrived in France, I wanted to take courses to speak French. It started at the Restos du cœur and then, when we went to the centre for asylum seekers, I took another course.
As my son went to school, I looked at his homework and I also learned like that by following his school work. I also watched a lot of French TV. When we went to the French Administration for Immigration and Integration to sign the contract of reception and integration, we were sent to the Greta to take French courses.
I did the mandatory training and passed the Diploma of French Language Studies (DELF) Level A1. I continued with the DELF Level A2 again thanks to the Administration for Immigration. Then I followed a 600-hour training course with the job centre. It really helped me a lot.
Learning the language has opened up doors for me. I was able to talk, to explain what I needed. Knowing French has helped me a lot. I could express myself, say what I think. Here people think freely, you shouldn't be afraid to talk. We must not be discouraged because sometimes it is difficult. Getting out of the house, being in contact with others and not staying with the people of your country. Being in contact with the social worker of the centre for asylum seekers was also important. I had always been very active and I really wanted to work. I wanted to continue to work in the field of music as a teacher. I had to find something to do, even on a voluntary basis. After the birth of my second son, I volunteered at the nursery but also in the church for music festivals. I play an instrument from my country. Thanks to the crèche I was spotted by a staff member from the municipality to participate in the baby shower and play music. I also play for neighbourhood parties, and with the symphony orchestra of the music conservatory. I sing in a choir as a soloist. One day I was offered a replacement at the conservatory as a piano teacher, then music theory lessons in the surrounding cities, as well as musical initiation too. Since then I've even been doing replacements for the choir, I do a lot of replacements.
In France, there are many social benefits, especially in terms of health. I was well cared for in the maternity hospital for the birth of our second child. Women have more rights here. But I can say that the mentalities are similar to those of my country, they are quite similar. We have the same religious holidays. Besides, I lived in a small town like this one.
My son has adapted very well.
Last year I followed a training course financed by the Immigration Bureau to validate a B1 level and I was able to apply for naturalisation. I am very happy to be here.”
Overcoming language barrier and lack of competences
Seedy arrived in Spain in 2009, when the financial crisis flared up. With the restrictive Spanish laws, his legal status could not be regularized until the end of 2018, so he had to perform hard and poorly paid jobs on the black market. In these jobs he did not have the opportunity to learn Spanish properly. Because social services referred Seedy to SSF's employment services, he began an intervention pathway that focused on acquiring transversal and key skills to adapt to the needs of the Spanish labour market, given that he had no studies in Gambia. But the main problem was the lack of mastery of Spanish. Seedy followed a double itinerary: while he was acquiring the necessary skills to work, he also improved his level of Spanish in the services provided by SSF. This has allowed him to obtain a contract as a warehouse waiter in a supermarket. Now, Seedy continues to attend SSF's employment services, his level of Spanish is improving day by day thanks to the combination of the Spanish course and on-the-job regular use. Finally, he can feel more integrated and respected in society.
Validation of a degree and creation of a business
Patricia came to Spain in 1997 from Ecuador, where she studied a undergraduate degree on Business Administration. Until 2011, when she lost her job, she didn’t care about the validation of her previous knowledge, since she didn’t find hard to get a job in Spain, but always in unskilled functions. From 2011 to 2017 she didn’t find any full-time nor permanent job, and Patricia had to turn to social services assistance. Then, she was transferred to the Solidaridad Sin Fronteras’ employment service. She told her story to the social worker, who guided her to begin with the process of validation of her undergraduate degree from Ecuador in Spain, and received for 6 months different training, mainly related to the improvement of her digital skills and entrepreneurial skills. In this last training, she was required to create a business plan while she was waiting to obtain the validation, which takes more than a year in Spain. This enabled her to have the plan ready at the moment the validation was approved. With the support of the professional from SSF she acceded to a grant for financing her business idea: an “arepas” restaurant in Alcorcón, a city nearby Madrid. She now feels that she made the right choice opting for the validation of her previous knowledge and creating a business with the support of the professionals from SSF.
Jackline from Cameroon : food diversity and cultural heritage may lead to a faster economic inclusion
Jackline, age 32, is a Cameroon woman arrived in Italy in 2016. She was taken in charge by social services for refugees and beneficiaries of international protection. Learning Italian was not difficult for her, who had a good education level. She has two jobs, depending on seasons: in winter she works in a hospice, while in the rest of the year she works in an agricultural cooperative where she is engaged in growing fruits and vegetable, as well as in transforming products. She has learnt to make marmalades, jams, sauces and other typical Piedmonts products. She is proud of having invented a new sauce which takes her name “Jackline sauce” and which is a mixture of African and Italian cooking style. She likes this second job, while the experience in the hospice is just a fall-back to earn money all year long. Speaking about the cooperative, she shows high commercial skills promoting their products and flyers. Her Italian is excellent. She does not speak about her previous life, as it is not so important now. She really feels included in the town of Torino.
Motivation and self-efficacy generate a virtuous circle to learn language
Marine, age 40, is a woman from Ivory Coast who arrived in Italy in 2014. She grown in a family of six children she spent her childhood with a cousin who did not let her go to school. When she arrived in Italy she was analphabetic and had a poor French oral knowledge. During the civil war in Ivory Coast she had left the country to go to Libya, where conditions of life were hard and dangerous. So she decided to escape together with a man from Ghana sharing the same bad conditions of life. When arriving in Italy she was followed by a cooperative working with refugees and she was immediately enrolled in an alphabetization programme where she learnt to write and read in Italian. It was really difficult for her and she was ashamed in comparison to her mates (all adult refugees but with higher education), but she was highly motivated to learn Italian : her engagement was full-time since after school she kept studying Italian. She tells that TV used with Italian subtitles was a great source of self-learning. She used to set small and simple weekly goals in learning Italian ; she lived every goal achieved as a great success that pushed her to set further higher goals. Her alphabetization coincided with Italian language. Now she reads and speaks currently and has just some problems in writing. She feels very grateful and says that “they let her become a person”. Now she works as a cook in internship in a centre receiving unaccompanied minors and is able to maintain herself (in Italy these internships are specifically defined for refugees and beneficiaries of international protections (they are called “borse lavoro”) and are paid by national or local public administration). She is very proud of herself even if the sorrows of her previous life in Africa are still open, but now she has new projects for the future: to study to become a certified cook and to learn French.
A succession of individual and family choices supported by local associations in a regulated environment
"I left my country because I had problems with the government, I had a company in Armenia and corruption meant that you always had to pay to work. I've decided to stop this. What was important was to protect my family. When I decided to leave, I didn't know where to go, but I had heard about France. I imagined France as a country of freedom. In my opinion, France was the only country on the planet where freedom and equality are found.
We arrived with my wife and son in Clermont-Ferrand by bus. We went directly to the prefecture to ask for the protection of the French State. We have been well received from the beginning. We have been accommodated by the prefecture in a hotel for about one month and then we have been taken in a nearby centre for asylum seekers (CADA) that is managed by the association CECLER. Our son went to school. Then 6 months after our arrival in France, we were sent to another centre. There we met people of many different nationalities. It was very important because we had to speak French. Our accommodation was adapted and furnished. It was clean. An association, the Restos du cœur, gave us French lessons on site. Our son was still in school.
On the work side, it took a lot of will. I have chosen what I do now. I was the one who wanted to decide, I didn't want to do just anything, I had an idea in my mind. At CADA I was bored and above all I wanted to give back what we were given. I worked as a volunteer at Emmaüs using my skills in cabinet making and carpentry. The French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons granted us international protection and we signed the contract of reception and integration in Clermont-Ferrand. Thanks to this I was able to follow French courses while continuing my work in Emmaüs. I've made good progress.
As I had left my driving license in Armenia, I couldn't drive. It was a big problem, I wasn't autonomous and very dependent on others. My family and I were stuck, we couldn't move. It was the employment centre that financed my driving licence. I worked at night to learn all the words by heart to pass the theoretical part and I got it at the first trial. Then, when I get my driving license, I took a credit from the bank to buy a vehicle. With the car, I distributed leaflets for 26 months. The salary was very variable, the situation rather unstable. The Director Emmaüs helped me and gave me a lot of advice. I took a training course in joinery and fittings. But no one wanted to hire me after this training. Anyway, I wanted to work on my idea, I didn't want to do just anything. My friends gave me some information. They helped me understand how things work. And so I went to the Chamber of Trades to see how to create my business and I did the 4-day training. I paid for my training and I could set up as a self-employed entrepreneur. Today I work well, I am in contact with kitchen shops that call on me to assemble furniture at customers' premises.
Several things were important to me, the warm welcome from France upon our arrival, with a good accommodation. What was important was that we had a lot of relationships with French people. I would say that today 70 % of our relations are French.
But what was important to me was that I knew what I wanted, that I wanted to work and that I didn't want to be carried away by others. I wanted the freedom to do what I wanted, and I wanted a good life !
Now I want to have a house, that's the next project.”
Participating to an internship program
Rania is a refugee from Syria. She is 36 years old. She came to Denmark in July 2014 with her husband and their children. Rania holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Damascus University.
Since the beginning of 2016, Rania has been on a journey, moving from unemployment to an internship in the corporate internship programme in Novo Nordisk, to landing her dream job as clinical trial administrator at Novo Nordisk in April 2017.
‘During my internship at Novo Nordisk, I have definitely become more clear about my own strengths and competences. But what truly made the internship a ground-breaking experience was that everyone I met made me feel welcome. They helped me built up my professional self-esteem and supported me in developing my skills. And they did it out of genuine care for me. I will never forget that’.
To Rania, the corporate internship programme has been an extremely successful intervention path for boosting her access to the labour market as it provided an opening for her.
The importance of mentorship
Khawla, age 36, is a Syrian woman who arrived in Denmark in 2014. Just like many other new Danes, she found it difficult to transfer her own previous experiences from the Syrian educational system and job market to a Danish context. In Syria, Khawla completed a law degree corresponding to a bachelor’s degree in Danish standards. However, when arriving in Denmark, Khawla quickly started up vocational training to become a social health worker. Khawla became enrolled in a mentorship program where she was matched with a mentor, Tove. According to Khawla, this mentor became imperative for her future path, as she helped Khawla with navigating in the system. Khawla realised that she had a great interest in mathematics, and that she dreamed of educating herself and finding employment within a field dealing more with this. Her mentor helped her research different industries in Denmark, and they found that an engineering education would be suitable for Khawla whilst being an industry with an extreme shortage of labour force. Khawla is now doing a preparatory course, and she expects to be admitted to an engineering school soon. In this way, her mentorship program has indeed boosted her access to employment.
Follow-up of a migrant
Venezuelan woman, she asked for asylum in Spain 10 months ago. In Venezuela she worked offering banking services. She didn’t make her diploma equivalent: most immigrants don’t do it because they think it is useless or they can’t afford the costs.
At the beginning of the intervention, there was an important obstacle: her legal papers were lost and she was undocumented. In this situation, professionals decided to search for job opportunities in the informal field, because the payment of a room was urgent. With the help of the career counsellor, she published an advertisement of domestic service and worked as such while she was waiting for her legal papers.
When she got them, she searched for other opportunities and she started to work in a telemarketing company, where she continues nowadays.
It is a person with great motivation, abilities for job search and digital competences. Professionals implemented an intervention from the basis, related to general citizenship procedures: house searching, how the Spanish labour market works, social security procedures. The orientation took place in individual sessions, because she couldn’t come to the group sessions due to her work hours.
We can see that the professionals adapted to the personal situation of the newcomer, helping her to deal with critical economic situation at the beginning and with developing of a new career when her legal situation became stable. Also, they focused on basic learnings about procedures of Spanish labour and social system.
Professional' adaptation to the needs of a migrant
Ana is a from Colombia, she's 40 years old. She has three children and is divorced. She didn’t make her High School Diploma equivalent and she didn’t reflect in her Spanish CV her experience as waitress in Colombia. She is very active and shows high motivation: she did several courses (food handler, hotel waitress…).
She accepted the orientation sessions very well, but individually. The professional identified that she lacked digital competences to search for a job, but she didn’t come to the group workshops about this topic. The motivation for developing this competence took place in individual meetings. At the beginning, the professional did the work instead of her: register in job websites, apply to offers. Good results brought herself to be interested in the digital competences and she started to have motivation to learn about it.
We can see that the intervention adapted to the needs and willingness of the person. It’s important to take into account migration and pre-migration experience, but also the professional respected the needs of the person at the moment. Professional understood that she changed her priorities and her professional career (she wasn’t interested in searching for waitress jobs from the beginning). At the same time, professional identified her lack of digital tools for job search and she motivated her about this and key competence learning to learn.
A successful integration thanks to an intrinsic determination supported by the parish community
Yunan was 25 years old when he arrived in France in 2017 with his parents and sister. They fled Iraq because of the war. They joined the province of Haute-Loire to meet members of the Iraqi community native from the Nineveh plain who had been welcomed by a Catholic parish, including his fiancée. The support set up by the parish allows Yunan and his family to be housed in an environment with daily contacts with French people. Supported in their administrative procedures, they also benefit from the network of volunteers for material matters, such as local mobility.
Yunan was granted refugee status a few months later. Very active, he has participated as a volunteer in renovation work. A few months later he found a job as a painter plasterer thanks to the network of volunteers. He therefore requested to postpone the language courses prescribed by the French Office of Immigration and Integration when the reception and integration contract is signed.
Through contact with volunteers and then with his colleagues at work that Yunan has acquired the basics in French and developed oral communication skills in the first instance. On a personal level, Yunan married someone from the Iraqi community living in Le Puy. A few months later, aware of the importance of mastering French in writing, Yunan contacted the Greta to enrol in the mandatory language course prescribed by the French Office of Immigration, even-though he had already reached the A1 level in oral communication targeted by this prescription. The training has been therefore mainly oriented towards the development of written skills so that Mr H. could claim new responsibilities within the company in which he was employed. Indeed, even if the higher education he has followed in Iraq is not in the construction sector, he has been trained in team management and his employer wanted to give him a position as team leader.
Yunan says he wants to pursue in the host country the same objectives he had in his home country, namely to take up a position of responsibility, to start a family and to build a house. For him, the key to achieving these objectives is the willingness he deploys, particularly in his work, as well as the desire to participate in the "life of the city". He wishes to apply for French nationality and has enrolled in the language test to validate a B1 level in French in order to submit his naturalisation application file.
Importance of a skills assessment
Mrs S., from the French speaking part of Cameroon, arrived in France in 2011 as part of family reunification program. She was 45 and she had worked several years in Africa as a market saleswoman. She had never been to school and was illiterate but was doing well in calculation.
Mrs S. signed the contract of reception and integration within 3 months of her arrival in France. The Immigration Bureau prescribed language courses with the main objective of developing the written skills, although oral expression and comprehension needed also to be improved. Her vocabulary needed to be enriched, as she was mostly using a vernacular language in her country.
Mrs S. therefore followed the mandatory French language course but also a further course, again financed by the Immigration Bureau. At the same time, she carried out a skills assessment prescribed by the Immigration Bureau as part of the reception and integration contract. This assessment enabled her to become aware of and to identify the skills she had acquired throughout her working life, even if it was in the informal sector and therefore not justifiable by official documents.
When her language training was finished, Mrs. S. didn't thought about working, as her husband was retired with enough resources.
However, after a while, difficulties at home led her to consider searching for a job. She had identified Greta as a "resource" place, thanks to the pedagogical support provided by the staff. So she contacted Greta again to be supported in her job search when her situation became critical. She had to register at the employment centre and then she joined a training course preparing for employment in September 2013. This training, financed by the Auvergne Region, entitled her to a salary, which allowed her to cover her basic expenses but also to overcome obstacles linked to mobility, given that she lived in a village 20 km from the training centre. Thanks to this training course, Ms. S. get to know the working environment in France and the requirements of employers. She could also understand better the administrative functioning. The work practices in companies allowed her to learn about jobs that she did not know. She was able to acquire professional gestures, to develop her experience in a position where her previous skills were reusable. But above all, she has been able to show that she had some transversal skills that are particularly valued by employers : adaptability, dynamism and personal investment in the workplace. These working periods have been essential in Mrs S.'s integration path for several reasons: 1) she had no experience in the job targeted of housekeeping staff (her previous experiences could not be transposed as such in the French labour context) ; 2) it would have been difficult for her to contact companies by herself, 3) it was difficult for her to talk about her know-how and to defend her application during job interviews. These practice periods allowed Ms. S to show what she was able to do and to prove it to the employer. They made it possible to remove the preconceptions on both sides.
The role of the trainer was important as a mediator between the employer and Mrs S., first of all to decode and clarify the expectations of both parties (presentation of the objectives of the internship to the employer but also the obligations of the trainee). The follow-up during the internship made it possible to clarify the questions of both parties. Once a relationship of trust had been established, the trainer conducted the negotiation of a 6-month employment contract subsidised by the State.
The flexibility of the training system made it possible to build a tailor-made integration programme where bottlenecks have been identified before being removed. The integration path could be extended until she got a job. The post-training follow-up conducted by a trainer made it possible to strengthen the links between Mrs S. and her employer and at the end of this first contract, she could signed a permanent one.
The success of this professional integration is mainly due to the concept of integration path. The mastery of the French language was the first obstacle to overcome, particularly in oral communication. The trainer's support made it possible to compensate for the lack of written skills. Pre-employment training has led to an understanding of labour legislation, of the codes existing in the working environment, to a knowledge of the employment possibilities within the area and to become acquainted to jobs and skills. It has also allowed to make practice periods in companies with a support that create confidence by dispelling fears. These practice periods have been decisive for Mrs S. who was able to demonstrate her skills.