Social responsibility is at the heart of the Volkswagen Group’s corporate culture. Particularly since the great wave of refugees in 2015, Volkswagen AG has tasked itself with making a contribution toward integration and emergency aid for refugees. A small unit within the Group Board of Management works together with a Group-wide network of CSR and education experts to initiate and coordinates refugee aid programs and cooperation projects across the brands and with other companies, aid organizations and associations. The three focal points of Volkswagen’s commitment are “encounter,” “education” and “integration,” which include providing meeting opportunities, language courses, internship placements and career starts by means of entry qualifications and the provision of trainee positions.
At the Volkswagen brand, for example, refugees have the chance to complete an entry qualification (EQ) at the Wolfsburg and Kassel sites. This gives young people the possibility of doing an internship at the training company in order to try out and show their suitability for the occupation they will do training in. As well as visits at the potential training company, RVA [Regional Association for Education] Wolfsburg provides continuous social-pedagogical supervision. A training contract is then drawn up at the end of the process. Refugees who apply for what is known as the EQ+ scheme also participate in language training before and during the entry qualification phase.
Entry qualification in Wolfsburg
In Wolfsburg, the entry qualification is implemented through a cooperation between Volkswagen, the Employment Agency and the Job Center together with the responsible Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Lüneburg-Wolfsburg, the Chamber of Skilled Crafts, the RVA and regional companies. To start the qualification, the refugees first complete a two-month intensive language course. In the process, they fill in gaps in their education resulting from war and flight from their country, and they also learn the unwritten rules of the working world. The participants then receive eight weeks of theoretical and practical vocational preparation at the Volkswagen plant before undergoing a six-month internship at a regional partner company. The aim of the project is a subsequent training at the internship company.
The aim of the two-month theoretical and practical vocational preparation at the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg is to learn the basics of, for example, metalworking, electrics and business administration, but also learning strategies and the fundaments of occupational safety. In addition, the entry qualification participants receive an overview of the opportunities and prospects awaiting refugees in their careers. Whether alongside tool mechanics, car mechanics, process mechanics or those working in the fields of electronics and automation technology, the participants can file, rasp and drill – and perhaps even build things themselves – under supervision at the site. But also general, theoretical foundations of the individual vocations are conveyed on the days the trainees spend at the plant alongside the vocational school. For example, what skills do car mechanics need for their job? What do they have to pay attention to in a vehicle? How does a dynamo work? And how do you actually change a tire?
“I have always been interested in assembling and designing things”
This is the path that Moussa Kouyate wants to take. He comes from Guinea in West Africa, lives alone in Germany without his family and applied for the EQ program via the RVA after completing 10th grade. His dream is to become an automotive mechatronics technician. “I have always been interested in assembling and designing things”, he says. He has been a participant in the entry qualification since October 2018. He will soon begin an internship at the local Wolfsburg dealership Hotz und Heitmann. This is also where Kouyate will subsequently do his apprenticeship. However, for the Volkswagen brand, successful integration also means involving of the refugees in other social activities. With group tours of the Autostadt for the trainees and communal cooking evenings with other employees and trainees, for example, the company does a lot both to bring the company closer to the refugees and to bring together different cultures within the plant.
Entry qualification in Kassel
The Volkswagen Group also offers an entry qualification at the Kassel-Baunatal site. As in Wolfsburg, the entry qualification program in Kassel came about through a cooperation with the Employment Agency and various Job Centers in the region. At this site, Volkswagen collaborates with the north Hessen education consultancy Bildungswerk der Nordhessischen Wirtschaft. Under the motto “integrating through business,” the latter organizes German lessons for the refugees at the Kassel site. The refugees are employed here exclusively in the areas of After Sales / Genuine Parts Distribution. This is where the worldwide supply of replacement parts by the Volkswagen Group is organized and managed. For the qualification of refugees, the Volkswagen After Sales Department in Kassel deploys what are known as education officers, who support and accompany the refugees over the entire duration of the EQ program in the warehouse logistics areas. A special feature is that the refugees in the EQ internship are also brought into contact with non-refugees taking part in the vocational preparation scheme. The idea behind this is that they learn together and from each other. It works. The participants who are still new to Germany find support here and get advice from their fellow students. By now, refugees can also serve as role models for other participants in many respects and therefore, in turn, provide orientation for those EQ participants without an immigration background.
“Learning the German language was the most enjoyable aspect of the entry qualification”
Ibrahim Muhamad Scheikh is such a case. In his home country, Syria, he had already begun a degree in electrical engineering but, because of the war, had to flee to Germany in 2016 without graduating. He applied for the EQ program in Kassel in the field of warehousing logistics because he not only wanted to know more about Volkswagen but also to find out more about logistics. “Learning the German language was the most enjoyable aspect of the entry qualification. But I wanted to continue to learn in other ways, too. Perhaps in the future, I will be able to combine my knowledge I acquired from my previous studies with what I am learning during my current training.”
There is another special feature about Kassel: whereas in Wolfsburg, the EQ participants do their internship and subsequent training in regional companies, in the Kassel plant, not only does the internship take place directly at Volkswagen, but numerous refugees can also stay on to do their vocational training there.