Integration at eye level
A project launched by thyssenkrupp in 2015 to give refugees a career perspective throughout the Group is now an integral part of thyssenkrupp Materials Services' recruiting and training strategy. A success that changes many lives and holds the opportunity to shape the labor market in a sustainable way. In August 2022 the next step was taken: participation in The Female Accelerator Program of the impact scale-up socialbee.
Program for female academics
The integration of refugees into the labor market has gained renewed public attention and importance this year as a result of the war in Ukraine – although there have always been people who have had to flee their homeland in order to start over somewhere else in the world. People who may have been living in a foreign country for years and desperately need to provide for themselves and their families again, but have been denied the opportunity to do so. The number of well-educated women in particular who are unable to return to their jobs after fleeing and being displaced is shockingly high at 67 percent.
Since August 2022 thyssenkrupp Materials Services has been one of the first companies to participate in socialbee's The Female Accelerator Program, which trains refugee women with an academic background to become project managers. Two women who had to flee Nigeria and Iran were selected in the joint application process by socialbee and thyssenkrupp Materials Services and are going through the structured program consisting of special offers for integration and soft skills, training in SCRUM and on-the-job training.
"Unfortunately, the number of participants was limited to two per company," says Luisa Rettig, HR Business Partner and Training Coordinator at thyssenkrupp Materials Services, "but we were so convinced by the idea and, of course, the applicants, that we hired another employee from Turkey in our IT department just like that. In my opinion, integration works best when it's not a topic." And so it goes without saying that the employees placed by socialbee receive the same conditions as colleagues who come to the company via a standardized application process.
Fighting the shortage of skilled workers with openness
The commitment of thyssenkrupp Materials Services began in 2015 as part of the thyssenkrupp wide "we. help@tk" program. "Initially, this initiative was primarily about assuming social responsibility," Luisa Rettig recounts. "In the meantime, however, we no longer focus only on refugees, but on all people who would often fall through the cracks in a traditional application process." For some participants, the training took much longer - but in the end, most of them had their degree in their pocket.
Because genuine, sustainable integration is more than simply meeting certain criteria and standards – this has also been the experience of the trainers at thyssenkrupp Materials Services in recent years. That's why the company continues to create jobs every year to give people who have difficulty gaining traditional access to the labor market a chance." And where their trainers and mentors have the time, but also the necessary qualifications, to accompany them. "We have found that we can actually find skilled workers very well this way," says Luisa Rettig. "Especially in the area of industrial-technical professions, where it is becoming increasingly difficult to find committed young talent." In the meantime, part of the recruiting for these jobs works on the recommendation principle. "Graduates of the program tell their network about us and bring relatives and friends with them who have also been in the country for a similar amount of time but never got a chance to get a professional foothold. For these people, we are their ticket to employment. Many of them show an extremely high level of motivation, which they also encounter with their coordinators. "
Luisa Rettig and her colleagues provide support in learning German or preparing for exams. "And even if it should turn out that someone is perhaps not quite suitable for a job with us, we help the person to find another training, qualification measure or job that fits better."
Commitment on all sides
In addition to the training and qualification of refugees or people with disabilities, both the Group's own integration initiatives and the cooperation with socialbee also include the corresponding qualification of trainers and mentors. This includes training on labor law, as well as mandatory training on cultural awareness and unconscious bias. The HR team around Luisa Rettig and Maike Karänke (Head of L&D D&I) supports all employees and managers who actively participate in the integration programs - especially when it comes to mastering difficult situations. Likewise, the socialbee team not only accompanies the participants of The Female Accelerator Program, but also advises and supports the ambassadors (contact persons for the participants in the company) and managers of the participating companies throughout the entire duration of the project.
"We are working very actively on developing our application processes step by step, and in particular on constantly improving the representation of diversity in the labor market," says Luisa Rettig. "However, it is not enough to write this into a set of rules. It's a matter of breaking down silos, dealing with one's own, often unconscious prejudices in a self-reflective manner, and creating awareness and sensitization at all levels of a company. Only then can integration and inclusion n be lived sustainably. And when I look back on my experiences with "we. help" and now also with The Female Accelerator Program, I can say that we are definitely on the right track – not only thanks to the commitment of the management, but also and especially thanks to that of our colleagues.