Three types of testimonies are presented: stories of refugees, integration paths seen from the professionals' point of view and initiatives told by the people who implement them. They show that a successful professional integration requires the joint involvement of several actors. They can be accessed either directly or by keywords.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).