A smart matching system connects qualified refugees to socially responsible employers and jobs where they fit.
Germany has been generous to refugees making their way into Europe over the past year. But that doesn’t mean the structural barriers to employment for refugees got easier. MigrantHire wants to help the New Germans integrate into society as fast as they can.
Like so many civic tech projects, MigrantHire started with a couple of friends chatting about how they might help. They came up with a simple idea for how to help connect refugees to jobs and started testing the concept of a “matchmaker” for refugees and German companies. As the startup gained traction, it wasn’t long before it morphed into a state of the art “refugee business accelerator” with the ambitious goal of helping 10,000 refugees get jobs in its first year.
Connecting refugees with German companies that want to hire them
The MigrantHire team went to work in April 2016. According to Stefan Parlebach, MigrantHire’s Head of Talent, the project started with IT sector, where they thought it would be easiest to identify employment opportunities for refugees in Berlin. Not only are IT workers needed in Germany, but English is commonly spoken in the industry and many newly arrived Syrians in Germany speak better English than German. IT companies were also less hung up on certificates, or formal language and educational assessments. They want to know that someone can do the coding/programming required, and can quickly determine if they can.
It wasn’t long before the project opened its platform to all occupations and sectors.
MigrantHire’s core is a smart matching system, connecting candidates with jobs where they fit. It started as an online job matching platform. It has the potential to deeply impact the labour market in Berlin.
Trust and support are key
MigrantHire’s co-founder and Community Manager Hussein Shaker came to Germany from Syria as a refugee with an IT background. He knows the frustration of trying to find a job. His initial community networking created 1000 sign ups when MigrantHire launched. The demand told them they were onto something. His experience and community connections mean that, so far, 6,000 Syrian refugees in Germany have come to trust MigrantHire to help them.
Some early successes helped. A Syrian IT refugee spent two unsuccessful years looking for work. Within three months of connecting to MigrantHire, he landed three interviews, and, the holy grail, a job that uses his IT skills at a software vendor.
The approach is straightforward. Applicants create a profile. They apply for jobs. But, there is a third step: personal support. This step differentiates MigrantHire from other civic tech approaches.
The vision is to not simply have a site where job seekers can post their resumes/CV, but to evaluate and work with candidates to help get them ready for the job market. MigrantHire found is that socially conscious companies want to help. They want to hire refugees, but can’t find them. German job centres can’t deliver the right people to them. The system is overwhelmed with demands from both companies and refugees.
Refugees face ongoing barriers to workplace integration. At the same time, many refugees are not ready yet for the job market. Of the 6000 candidates currently on MigrantHire’s system, Parlebach says that maybe 500-1000 fulfill job requirements. MigrantHire realized they can still play a role and help them, and the economy.
That’s where personal support really kicks in. And, not just for the refugees.
As the founders learned and listened to their refugee audience and partners, the impact of their platform started extending beyond job matches. The site and it’s technology is crucial. As the idea evolved and grew, offline connections and partnerships have become crucial as well. MigrantHire’s approach to connect deeply with the refugees not only benefits how the site evolves for the refugees. It also benefits their education, government and employer partners to understand the best way to help them.
A bridging role – implement, listen, learn, adapt, implement
The platform they’ve created allows MigrantHire to mine deep data to make those connections and link people not only to jobs, but to pathways to future work. The team can connect refugees with educational and nonprofit partners to additional support.
Parlebach says their platform makes it easy to find out needs of candidates and to reach out on their behalf. If they see a collective interest or need in a particular course or workshop, they can reach out to partners to deliver it. If partners have something to offer refugees, they can contact those candidates whose profiles suggest they could benefit.
Parlebach says that the MigrantHire team already assumed that most people wouldn’t be job ready – especially in terms of speaking German. They thought it might be useful to offer educational opportunities to applicants. A lot of community and government organizations that offer free employment help were having problems finding clients to enrol into their projects. MigrantHire has been able to connect them.
An example was the Refugee Business Accelerator workshop. MigrantHire was able to connect refugee participants interested in creating their own business with experts in legal, business startup, marketing, finance and other key areas.
Parlebach sees this connector role as a new core part of MigrantHire’s future. MigrantHire can show refugees the pathway to good jobs and connect with community partners to help them. Their focus is practical, and long-term: “We want to show them jobs with a future in the German labour market.”
The potential for German NGOs and community organizations is huge. Community projects tend to lack the tech capacity to create and manage a sophisticated platform like MigrantHire. Working together means leveraging all partner strengths to scale a local solution to help as many people as possible. It’s the very definition of what civic tech tries to accomplish.
As they identify candidatesè needs, and good jobs in German labour market, MigrantHire can work to create courses, bring companies, and others together. The impacts are real and measurable. For example, as a result of their efforts, more IT courses have been created in Berlin to help refugees learn how to be programmers. They’re connecting interested refugees to jobs in demand in senior care, working with community partners to offer the training to qualify them.
Parlebach says that social enterprise innovators can be more nimble and shift where they see the needs. Because they’re flexible, they can pivot based on needs and outcomes. The civic tech learning approach means they’ll inevitably focus on things that work for their audiences, meeting demands as they come up, abandoning approaches that aren’t working quickly.
It’s an approach that’s already working for Berlin’s Syrian refugee population and can work anywhere.
Making it Work for You:
- Learn startup methodology. Try things out, get a lot of feedback, learn and adjust.
- Can have amazing ideas, but they may not be a fit. Have to be able to change and shift/pivot your idea. Have to get a lot of feedback, make it easy for people to ask questions.
- Really learn first. Having a pilot is important. Find out if there’s a need for your idea before you put a lot of work into the wrong idea.
- Need to have good programmers and techies, but connect closely with all your key stakeholders - companies and candidates. Be helpful.
- Focus on user experience and pathways. Find the niche.
- Have good feedback loops and make the best of them. Be flexible.
- Try things out. Try out your idea. Validate it as soon as you can. Don’t just build, validate your assumptions by asking the people you’re working with.