100 Days of 'Be Welcome' - Bertelsmann SE & Co. KGaA

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Gütersloh, 08/03/2016

100 Days of 'Be Welcome'

Subject: Society
Country: Germany
Category: Project

In April, eleven young refugees enrolled in the "Be Welcome" project to develop career prospects on the regional labor market. After 100 days, the eight young men and three women are already closer to their goal than they had would have imagined.

The atmosphere is like that of any normal school class during break: The eleven young men and women laugh, chat and play Kubb in a park in Gütersloh. However, the good mood is not taken for granted: They all come from Syria, which has been torn apart by civil war for five years. They have been in Germany for as long as three years, and had very different experiences fleeing as refugees. In the "Be Welcome" project launched by Bertelsmann in April, they share a common goal: to find a job in Germany. The one-year program begins with an intensive language course. The participants are now to finding out which job best suits them through an internship at a company. Ideally, they will then remain at the company and start a dual-training program after a year.

"Developing prospects"

"The project is going much better than I expected," says "Be Welcome" project manager Anna Terletzki. "The participants have made good progress on their language skills. But I'm most impressed by their high level of group cohesion and motivation." In the first four months the project participants attended a daily language course improve their German at the Corporate Center. Their experiences as refugees only play a marginal role. "Everyone wants to look to the future and develop prospects here in Germany," explains Terletzki.

Most of the young refugees have come to Gütersloh with their family, parents or siblings. They are all accredited refugees and no longer live in shelters, but with their families in homes. Their educational backgrounds vary – some have acquired basic school-leaving qualifications, others had their studies interrupted when they had to flee. "In the beginning we noticed that the participants knew hardly anything about the German education system. Over the last weeks and months, we have worked together on how dual training compares to unskilled labor and can also very much be an alternative to a degree." The participants now have specific ideas about which profession they want to take up in Germany – ranging from warehouse logistics professional to printer and chef. They have been able to carry out solid research on excursions to the Vocational Information Center (BIZ) in Bielefeld and to Sonopress, Dr. Oetker and the Arminia Bielefeld soccer club.

"We are Harsewinkelers"

Shamoun, 21, was studying English literature in Syria. When "life got too difficult" in Syria, he fled with his parents and siblings to Germany – to Harsewinkel. "My uncle and aunt have lived here a long time. We are all Harsewinkelers now," says Shamoun, smiling. In August, he begins an internship at Arvato Systems, at the Gütersloh Corporate Center. He wants to be an IT specialist and can imagine staying in Gütersloh: "Big cities are so chaotic. Gütersloh is very practical. I really want to complete an apprenticeship and then work or maybe study later."

Salam, 20, is also happy to have been accepted to the program: "Bertelsmann is like a family that adopted me and takes care of me. We are taken by the hand and guided on the right path," she says. Although she is homesick, she wants to stay here and later start a family. But first, she wants to train as an educator in Gütersloh. In August her internship begins with a full-time assignment at a Gütersloh elementary school. Orshina, 26, has other plans: In Syria she studied marketing and business administration. Here in Gütersloh she would like to do an apprenticeship as a media designer and eventually return to Syria. "Be Welcome has helped me improve my language skills and gain self- confidence," she says.

Volunteering

During the internships now beginning at Arvato, Mohn Media, Baxter, an elementary school, and warehouse logistics, the participants can get to know their chosen occupations. If the companies and participants decide they are a good match for each other, the one-year entry-level qualification begins. The participants spend the first year of training "on probation," after which they start the actual apprenticeship. During this phase the young men and women are looked after by Anna Terletzki and social worker Andreas Majewski. "The project has really gotten off to an excellent start. Not a single prejudice against refugees has been confirmed. Among themselves and with us, the participants are always helpful, friendly, respectful and conscientious. Half of them even do volunteer work in the region." For example, Sako works as a volunteer interpreter for the City of Gütersloh and as a behavioral coach at the outdoor pool. Kalan and Riyadh regularly visit a retirement home to play cards with the residents or go for a walk with them. "It's great to see how much the participants have learned during this time and their commitment," says Terletzki. "They will find their way here in Germany."