Integration begins at work
MigraNet - IQ Landesnetzwerk Bayern
MigraNet works to create a positive image of migrants in Germany’s Bavarian region, to ensure their economic integration. A key goal is improving recognition of their skills and qualifications in the labour market.
MigraNet is part of a nationwide program called Integration through Qualification (IQ). It is a network building cultural competency, credential literacy and economic integration projects to ensure that skilled migrants can effectively contribute to Germany society.
In many European countries refugees and migrants experience higher levels of unemployment and significant underemployment. Skills and qualifications gained abroad are not recognized. This isn’t a phenomenon unique to Germany, it affects migrants across Europe. After recently accepting nearly one million refugees and migrants who made their way through Europe to reach Germany borders, recognizing their skills is a priority for all.
The long game
Since 2005, MigraNet has brought together organizations, businesses and migrant organizations to improve labor market integration in Bavaria. MigraNet is also part of a pan-European network, Migrants Employment Empowerment Training (MEET). They work together to create consistent and common credential assessment instruments and campaigns for labour market integration of migrants.
The OECD estimates that migrants to the EU have an unemployment rate twice that of those born in the EU. When migrant talent and credentials are not recognized, their integration process slows down, and local communities miss out on talent they may sorely need in their economies.
Turning this trend around is a long-term process. It involves not only creating prescriptive solutions, but also persuasive interventions.
A pan-European image campaign
In the summer of 2006, MigraNet launched a media campaign to illustrate the economic waste caused by not recognizing professional migrant qualifications in Germany. Their work contributed to a 2007 MEET set of campaign recommendations including:
- Give migration a face
- Make qualifications visible
- Create recognizing effects
- Find important partners
- Irritate people
According to Anne Güller-Frey, MigraNet’s Transnational Coordinator, all of these approaches were important, but especially to “give migration a face” and to “make qualifications visible.” “The focus of the campaign and working on these topics was to change the public view on migrants from deficit to resource orientated,” she says. “To show, that migrants bring with them potential which can be used in the labour market. Qualifications gained abroad have to be recognized and transferred. We focus on three main target groups: economic stakeholders, stakeholders in policy and other relevant groups, and public society.”
MigraNet created a banner exhibition “Many Worlds – Many Abilities”, aired “Recognition Now!” video spots in movie theatres across Germany, distributed information postcards and a booklet of interviews with migrants sharing their experiences getting qualifications recognized.
They recognize that the approach must continue, and with new and different integration actors. Together with the Bavarian Football Association, MigraNet produced a publicity campaign to show how sporting qualifications (via UEFA licenses) can be easily recognized across borders.
Beer coasters were created and distributed in restaurants, bars, at conferences, seminars across Bavaria.
Reaching out to society is essential, as is informing and connecting with migrants. MigraNet has created a toolbox of resources for migrants to prepare them for their move to Germany. Helping them get ready is an important part of MigraNet’s mission.
Recognition, progress, and next steps
MigraNet works with and learns from international partners. They have replicated a Canadian immigrant-focused mentoring program. Modelled on TRIEC’s successful Mentoring Partnership, the program has been active in Ausburg for three years. Güller-Frey says, while the aim is not employment, connecting migrants with mentors in their fields means finding employment sooner. This experience is consistent with a 2013 Canadian report on mentoring outcomes (PDF).
Their work is making a difference. In 2012, Germany passed the Law on Recognition of Foreign Qualifications. Based on the network’s efforts, the federal employment agency changed the credential assessment tool they use. A simple change, such as including a category for foreign qualifications, means that data about skilled migrants is now accurate.
In 2013, the MigraNet Image Campaign was awarded the Bavarian State Government’s Integration Prize. Their work became better known across Bavaria, says Güller-Frey. This new awareness of their work functioned like a “door opener” for work with new partners, such as employers.
Employers are an important piece of the puzzle for MigraNet. Supporting companies is essential. Güller-Frey says that it’s necessary to address the perception that refugees and migrants are a drain on resources and to demonstrate that they are a resource with great potential. Having credentials recognized doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll find adequate jobs. It’s a challenge, as employers are still reluctant to take what they perceive as a hiring risk.
Recently, MEET partners surveyed employers about their perceptions of migrants. The study indicated that when employers had direct experience of employing refugees and migrants they had more positive attitudes then those who had no such experience.
Inspired by this knowledge and work done with employers in Canada, MigraNet is building an online employer portal. The goal is to match skilled migrants with employers. The portal will also include additional support for employers to further the integration of migrants into the labour market.
MigraNet will interview employers about their experience, challenges they faced, and what other employers can learn from them. They plan to publish these interviews, similar to their booklet of migrant interviews.
Ultimately, says Güller-Frey, networking, bringing relevant partners together to work on common solutions is the most important lesson in their work.
Making it Work for You:
- Persuading even a welcoming society about the economic value of migrants is a long-term process.
- There are many societal actors that make economic integration of migrants possible, it's important to work with them all or your solution won't be effective.
- Build on your small victories and make effective use of awards and accolades to raise awareness of your campaign and to build support and new allies.