The reasons for fleeing can be diverse: persecution, war or violence force many people to leave their homes. Elsie Kamikazi from Rwanda, Sahel Yosofi from Afghanistan and Majed Murad from Syria saw no other perspective than to make a new start in Germany. They are among the 5,000 refugees whom Volkswagen Group supports through Refugee Aid, stretching from MAN to Audi.
“Integration remains a major social challenge to which we contribute.”
“With sustainable educational and vocational programs, we contribute to the gradual arrival of refugees into German society and on the labor market.”
The three refugees are part of the “Training Perspectives for Refugees” qualification scheme at the Wolfsburg site. The program is part of the refugee assistance provided by the Group and its brands. The brands prepare refugees for working life in projects focusing on three main areas: encounters, education and job integration, stretching from Ingolstadt to Wolfsburg.
During a ten-month program, 10 to 15 refugees are currently preparing for professional and personal training in Wolfsburg alone. Following a two-month intensive language course, the participants are currently attending an eight-week qualification course at the Volkswagen Academy for theoretical and practical vocational training. A small local company cannot provide these two modules. Volkswagen is therefore taking them on. Afterwards, the refugees complete a six-month internship at one of nine regional partner companies. In addition to Volkswagen, the project is also supported by the Regional Network for Training, the Employment Agency and the Chamber of Industry and Commerce. In its form, it creates the conditions for subsequent vocational training for the refugees.
“The integration of refugees is and remains a major social challenge. Volkswagen Group, with its employees and cooperation partners does not just sell cars. With its commitment, it makes an important contribution to this common task,” says Group CFO Frank Witter, who is also the patron of Volkswagen Group Refugee Aid.
Ariane Kilian, Head of Volkswagen Group Refugee Aid, emphasizes: “When we started our work in 2015, the focus was on emergency aid. Today, sustainable educational and vocational programs must help refugees to gradually find their way into German society and gain a foothold in the employment market.”
Volkswagen Group Refugee Aid
Since 2015, Volkswagen Group Refugee Aid has been initiating and coordinating cross-brand integration programs that prepare young people for vocational training and the labor market. This has already reached over 5,000 refugees. The spectrum covers the Wolfsburg project model “Training Perspectives for Refugees”, the “German 360 Degrees” project at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles in Hanover, Porsche’s Integration Year, Audi’s classes on professional and cultural skills, or industrial placements followed by a career entry at MAN. In addition to educational and vocational integration programs, regular contact between the refugees and company employees is important. Volkswagen Group Refugee Aid therefore supports volunteer employees and organizes exchanges with colleagues.
One example of the success of the initiative is Elsie Kamikazi from Rwanda. The 26-year-old wants to become an optician in Wolfsburg and is in her second year of training. “I feel very comfortable, the profession is interesting. I am grateful for the chance I have been given,” she explains. She particularly enjoyed the cultural aspect of the program. “We went to the planetarium – and I visited Berlin, it was fun!” She gets on well with the staff at her training school. “When someone needs help, everyone is there for each other.” Your finest moment? “The many wonderful encounters.” Last but not least, it is also the cooperation partners who make the program a success with their commitment. “With our training workshops and our intercultural educational skills, we have the best prerequisites for paving the way to a professional career,” says Ralph Linde, Head of the Volkswagen Group Academy.
In addition to technical basics such as material processing, electrical engineering or fundamental IT skills, occupational safety, learning strategies and the legal framework are also on the agenda, as are interdisciplinary topics. So far 31 refugees from ten countries have taken part in the cooperation project in Wolfsburg. Almost all graduates of the last two years were offered a training contract afterwards. Participants from the entry-level classes will already successfully complete their training this year.
Step-by-step to the goal
One who has just started his training year is Sahel Yosofi from Afghanistan. The 21-year-old has been training as a vehicle painter for four months. “I am very pleased that I have been taken on in the company where I did my internship after the program. I chose this profession myself and I have really enjoyed it,” he explains.
To achieve his goal, he had to invest a lot of effort. “At the beginning I couldn’t do anything, I didn’t know how to handle sandpaper, for example. But I knew that this was my way. And where there is a will ...”, he already quotes a German proverb and laughs. In the end, Sahel was certain that his dream was to become a vehicle painter. “I will never forget when my boss offered me my training contract. It was an incredible moment. I didn’t know what to say, I was so overjoyed.” Yosofi, who has lived in Germany since 2016, is not only delighted with his education, but also reamins ambitious: “Speaking German without an accent is still on my target list.”
Majed Murad from Syria has also set big goals. He would like to become a dental assistant and is currently still in the process of qualifying within the Volkswagen Group. “My training is scheduled to start in Wolfsburg this summer. The colleagues are very pleasant and support me wherever possible,” says the 21-year-old.
Walking the path together
The Group makes a seven-figure sum available annually for Refugee Aid. “More important than the budget are the people and projects. The core of Refugee Aid is encounter, education and integration. Refugees benefit from this. They expand their know-how and get to experience professional practices. But the encounters are also enriching for Volkswagen and its employees,” Frank Witter explains.