Company: Integration of refugees into work

Refugees are becoming increasingly popular on the German labor market. They help companies to fill vacant training positions and jobs and are perceived by many employees as an asset to their team. According to a study by the Competence Center for Securing Skilled Workers (KOFA) at the Institute for the German Economy (IW), around 430,000 German companies already employed refugees last year.

More and more companies are offering permanent, regular employment contracts, but less often internships like at the beginning of the integration efforts. Every tenth company, according to the study, now also trains refugees as part of dual training. But what legal hurdles have to be overcome when employing refugees? What funding opportunities are there and who can help with practical tips?

In the past few years, a number of initiatives and alliances have been formed to help companies with practical information. There are also a number of government funding opportunities for companies that employ or want to employ refugees. What companies should know:

Ask the welcome guides

Since the spring of 2016, so-called welcome guides have been supporting small and medium-sized companies in filling apprenticeships and jobs with refugees. Last year there were around 100 Welcome guides in action. They are located at more than 80 chambers of crafts, chambers of industry and commerce, chambers of the liberal professions and other business organizations and are therefore easily accessible in the region. In 2020 they managed to fill around 1,130 apprenticeships with refugees.

Use networks

The network “Companies integrate refugees” – founded in March 2016 by the Federal Ministry of Economics and the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry – is the largest association in Germany of companies that are committed to the employment of refugees. Many of the approximately 2500 member companies are small and medium-sized companies. The network works both at federal and regional level with various actors as well as chambers of industry and commerce and chambers of crafts.

Secure skilled workers

That KOFA, Competence Center Securing Skilled Workers, provides interested companies with a comprehensive dossier with signposts, recommendations for action, videos and practical examples on the integration of refugees.

Check potential

It is often difficult for companies that want to train a refugee to assess what potential an applicant has and what support he needs. This can be found out within the framework of an introductory qualification (EQ) lasting six to twelve months. It is thus a kind of bridge to the actual training and also includes attendance at vocational school. To do this, the company must submit an application to the Employment Agency before the EQ begins. It reimburses the minimum remuneration of 243 euros per month as well as a flat-rate social security contribution. Refugees with recognized protection status have the opportunity to take part in an EQ. Asylum seekers and tolerated persons can also participate, provided they have an employment permit. The EQ can be supplemented by further funding instruments and is then called EQ Plus.

Request help for training

If trainees need support with the content of the training or if socio-pedagogical questions arise increasingly, aids accompanying the training (abH) can contribute to the success of the training. They are diverse and range from tutoring, support with exam preparation and coaching to mediation in the event of differences between the company and the trainees. The time required is between three and eight school hours per week outside of working hours. The measures are fully financed by the employment agency or the job center.

If the requirements are met, it can therefore make sense to complete a one-year EQ in advance of the training and to take advantage of training-related assistance during this time.

Call in external training providers

Young people in need of support, for whom support with abH is not intensive enough, can be prepared for in-company vocational training using the “Assisted Training” (AsA) measure. This can come into question, for example, if a company does not have sufficient personnel capacities to guarantee more intensive support. Then an external training provider provides support. The trainees receive support between four and nine school hours a week outside of working hours.

Testing candidates in everyday life

Sometimes companies cannot use the evidence available to judge with certainty whether an applicant is suitable for an advertised position. In this case, as part of the “Measures at an employer for activation and professional integration” (MAG), you can check directly at the workplace which knowledge and skills a candidate has. The refugee is involved in everyday operations on a trial basis and can prove himself in practice. This “internship” (or “trial work”) is limited to six to twelve weeks. The prerequisite for the program is that it is carried out free of charge. Unemployment benefit will continue to be paid over the entire period.

Apply for grants

Companies that assume that their new employees will require more intensive training than usual can receive an integration grant (EGZ). The amount and duration of the EGZ depend on the individual case. The employment agency pays up to 50 percent of the wages paid. For refugees with a residence permit, employers can immediately receive an EGZ, for tolerated persons and asylum seekers only after three months. A corresponding application must be submitted to the employment agency or the job center before taking up employment.

Book professional language courses

Professional language courses from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) provide trainees and employees with a migration background with the language skills they need for their everyday work. They can also be attended extra-occupationally and part-time. Basic courses end with a certificate examination and have a duration of up to one year (400 to 500 teaching hours each). Participation is free of charge for trainees. This only applies to employees if their last taxable annual income is less than 20,000 euros.

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