The Integration Puzzle What a Million Refugees Mean for Everyday Life
Part 21: BMW Courts Refugees
Inga Jürgens, 47, is the head of personnel strategy at the BMW Group and director of the WORK HERE! practical training program.
Ms. Jürgens, has BMW had any success in finding Syrian engineers?
We developed the idea this past September. As a company, we believe we have an obligation to society. That's why we want to help 500 refugees get acquainted with the German working world. Our plan was to start with 50 people, but we had a difficult time finding enough participants to fill all the slots. A sufficient knowledge of German was one of the prerequisites, but very few have that. In the end, 31 men and three women came to our company headquarters in Munich -- including 34 professionally qualified refugees, of whom 27 were still with us as of mid-January. The program began with a two-day crash course, "Living and Working in Germany," on Nov. 16. It answered questions like: What's important to us Germans? What's the appropriate way to dress? How do we meet women? How do people greet each other? And what is the correct behavior in the company cafeteria? Afterwards, they begin work experience programs in very diverse departments. Those who prove themselves can then apply for an internship or an open position.
We came to the determination quickly that the education level of many wasn't sufficient. Some have completed vocational training, but few have studied business or IT. Besides, IT in the countries they are coming from isn't necessarily at the same level as here. What I did see in every one of them, though, was a high degree of motivation to come to work.
At the beginning, we had to explain to participants that in Germany it isn't enough to just send your brother in your place if you are unable to come to work. Or that excuses like "the bus didn't come" won't work because the buses almost always come in Germany and that, if you don't trust that the bus will keep to its schedule, you'll just have to take an earlier one.
Refugees from Syria or Afghanistan come from a relationship-oriented culture -- and they have trouble finding their way in an expertise-oriented culture like that in Germany. They have to learn, for example, that it is not normal to ask your supervisor during your first conversation how old they are or about their relationship status.
- Part 1: What a Million Refugees Mean for Everyday Life
- Part 2: Integration 101
- Part 3: Are Refugees More Violent?
- Part 4: Frustration and a Lack of Resources
- Part 5: Teaching Refugees to Swim
- Part 6: 'A Challenge Like No Other'
- Part 7: The Doctor's Advice: Learn German and Be Patient
- Part 8: A 1.5 Billion Burden for the Healthcare System?
- Part 9: Dancing Away Stereotypes and Prejudice
- Part 10: The Midwife's Migraine
- Part 11: Germany Will Need 20,000 New Teachers for Refugees
- Part 12: 'We Need Time'
- Part 13: 'We Will Only Manage This If We Have the Infrastructure'
- Part 14: 'We Will Undergo a Multicultural Transformation'
- Part 15: Refugees at Our Doorsteps
- Part 16: 1.09 Million Refugees Registered in 2015
- Part 17: Policing the Refugee Camps
- Part 18: The Refugee Bill
- Part 19: Integration Will Be a Task for Decades to Come
- Part 20: 'An Open Economy Would Be Unimaginable without Immigration'
- Part 21: BMW Courts Refugees
- Part 22: A Michelin Star and Refugees
- Part 23: 'What Is a Petroleum Technician?'