When Somayeh Jafari, a 32-year-old woman from Iran, came to Germany, all she had was a suitcase. Invisible, yet heavier than any suitcase, is the sense of loss she has carried ever since. She left her family,
friends, and familiar surroundings behind. Sajid Khan, 21, who fled from Bangladesh in the hope of starting a new life in Germany, has a similar story. After their initial, often difficult, experiences in this foreign land, both of them are seeing something like normality return to their lives. Both are participating in a training program at Evonik. “The best way to gain a foothold here is to develop your career prospects,” says Hans Jürgen Metternich, Head of Training North at Evonik.
Evonik expanded the Starting a Career program for the 2015/16 academic year to include a measure financed and operated by the Evonik Foundation for young refugees like Jafari and Khan. The program was launched by the social partners of the chemical industry to help young people who are not yet ready to begin a traineeship. For eight months, the participants gather practical experience in scientific and technical fields, supported by socio-educational counselors. Refugees also take German lessons. “Language is the key to integration,” says Metternich. Refugees and young people who are not refugees complete the program together. “All the participants learn from and with one another,” he adds.
Jafari and Khan have benefited from this concept. Both have completed the first Starting a Career for Refugees program, improved their German, and gotten to know the professional environment in Germany. Their commitment has impressed Evonik. Since August 1, 2016, both of them have been trainees at the Marl location. Jafari is learning to be a chemical technician, and Khan is an upandcoming chemical laboratory technician. They are not the only refugees who have successfully completed the program. Of the 30 refugees who have completed the program, 21 were able to directly begin a traineeship at Evonik or another
company after graduating. Three of the 30 are attending secondary school, and four have begun jobs that are covered by national social insurance.
“I had already sent out many job applications before the Evonik Foundation enabled me to participate in Starting a Career,” says Jafari, who had been unable to find employment in Germany inspite of her Iranian degree as a construction engineer. Khan had also sought employment in his new home country for a long time without success. “I’m very thankful for the opportunity to follow up the Starting a Career program with a training program at Evonik,” he says. In the meantime he has even been elected to the committee representing young people and trainees in Marl.
Evonik has operated the Starting a Career program for 17 years, during which about 1,100 young people have completed it. For many of them it was a springboard to vocational training programs. “Thanks to the Evonik Foundation’s measure, the program now also opens up new perspectives for young refugees and gives them a key boost as they make a new start in Germany,” says Metternich.
The Evonik Foundation intends to give even more refugees a chance in the future, with 20 being included in the program every year over a period of three years. “The people who come to us in distress are an opportunity for Germany if we succeed in integrating them into the labor market as fast as possible,” Metternich explains.
After all, refugees don’t leave their homes willingly; they leave because they are in a hopeless situation or because war has put their lives at risk. Without friends or family in Germany, Jafari and Khan often feel lonely. The training program has offered them social integration in Germany and is the first step toward a self-determined future.