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New website helping refugees enter Germany’s workforce

9 December 20160 comments

An innovative new Berlin-based website is helping to integrate the flood of migrants into Germany’s workforce with a tailor-made online job market for new arrivals.

The MigrantHire website was founded earlier this year by a mix of Germans and migrants, and operates with a handful of staff and five volunteers out of a shared working space in a former industrial building in Berlin’s trendy Kreuzberg district.

A kind of LinkedIn for refugees, it is finding work for newcomers while also helping to solve German labour shortages in key areas.

It is a simple idea. Refugees get help preparing resumes and job applications and can post their skills on the portal, while employers can search the database for the sorts of people they need or advertise positions that require filling.

More than 8,000 migrants have registered on the website; that’s a fraction of the 890,000 asylum seekers who arrived in Germany last year but a sign that many are serious about finding employment.

The website helps migrants create resumes that match German standards, then connects the applicants to German companies. It’s free for the migrants and relies on donations and volunteers.

Co-founder Hussein Shaker says his own experiences trying to find work prompted him to set up the sight as a way of helping others.

In his home town – the war ravaged Syrian city of Aleppo – he studied information technology, but when he came to Germany he couldn’t find any work in the IT sector.

Instead he ended up working in a call centre while learning German.

When he was approached by Hussein with the idea of MigrantHire by Remi Mekki, a Norwegian entrepreneur living in Berlin, he immediately quit his job and threw himself into the project.

On a normal day, the organisation helps migrants write resumes, answer questions about German employment law and assists them apply for jobs that companies have posted on the website.

A recent study by the Cologne Institute for Economic Research found that migrants who have moved to Germany account for 16.6 per cent of the country’s employees with higher degrees in the crucial and coveted areas of mathematics, IT, and science and technology.

These are known in Germany by the acronym MINT. The study also found that 13 percent of employees with lesser MINT qualifications came from abroad.

The study found Germany will be unable to fill 210,000 MINT positions in 2016 – up 9 perc ent over the previous year because there aren’t enough young people studying in these areas to replace older ones who retire.

It also found that surprising progress has been made integrating refugees from Syria and Afghanistan into MINT jobs.

The researchers predict that as many as 40,000 migrants of this sort could be employed in technical jobs in Germany by 2020.

But they warned that the eastern parts of Germany face a major competitive disadvantage compared to the rest of the country because those areas fail to attract significant numbers of foreigners.

Another recent study of the eastern state of Brandenburg found that refugees have the best chance of integrating if they are matched to areas with labour needs – precisely the sort of service MigrantHire is offering.

Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist