Work

Frankfurt, Germany

One Samson, One World

Samson AG

October 30, 2017

An industry leader paves the way to vocational training and employment for refugee youth

“Those who have found their way to us after a dangerous journey with fear and deprivation first need our confidence. We do not want to wait with our help until all bureaucratic hurdles are taken and all doubts are eliminated. We trust these people to create a new start with us and take them into our Samson AG family.” Dr. Ingo Koch, Samson AG Executive Board member.

Jugendliche Flüchtlinge Saleh Ehab Ahmed kontrolliert Drehmesser und arbeitet in dieser Firma Samson in einem Projekt.
Weissmüllerstraße 3/Fechenheim/Frankfurt/M. Aufgenommen am 29.09.2016.

When other business leaders expressed doubt that Samson AG could be successful with refugee hires, the 100-year old company set out to prove them wrong.

Samson AG, a Frankfurt-based multinational engineering firm, is a diverse company with a workforce of people from more than 40 different countries. They knew they were up to the challenge.

“We have customers all across the world, we could not shut ourselves off from the refugee situation,” commented Andrea Schmidt, Head of Education and Training.

Diversity and leadership

Leadership came from the top. Samson AG Chairman, Dr. Andreas Widl, was moved by the images of asylum seekers entering Europe, and decided the company could play an important role by giving young refugees a chance to qualify professionally and build a safe life in Germany.

The company’s headquarters, Samson Frankfurt, decided to add an additional 30 training spots for refugee youth to their annual vocational training allotment. The company was confidant its inter-cultural environment would help make integration easier for the refugee trainees. Indeed, the plan was not just to provide training for the young refugees but to offer qualified candidates employment after their training.

Having internal buy in was essential. Schmidt says “it was important for us to inform our workforce about our commitment from the outset, and to involve them through sponsorship programs, interns, etc.” Internal support was overwhelming. Many employee volunteers came forward as instructors and mentors to support the refugee trainees.

Already in 2015 the Samson AG Refugee Work Program was up and running a recruitment campaign. By March of 2016 the first refugees entered the paid internship program as vocational trainees. Initial funding contracts run for six months, then the apprenticeship begins. Over the course of the program, trainees rotate through different departments and see every side of the engineering company: logistics, production, administration.

A renewable pipeline

Importantly, the 30 new training spots Samson AG created are not a one-time commitment but a renewable pipeline for refugee talent. As trainees complete the training cycle, their spot becomes available for other young refugee candidates. Already in 2018, three trainees will complete their training and new trainees will be hired. Samson AG has also already exceeded their initial hiring goal. According to Schmidt, “we have 37 refugees at the moment at Samson AG. We had 30 spots especially for refugee youth and the other 7 are on jobs where we were looking for employees in general.”

The trainees come from many countries: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Congo, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Algeria. Their training spans the company hierarchy, including Industrial Mechanic, Mechanic, Electronics Technician for Engineering Operations, Technical Warehouse Worker, Industrial Purchaser, and Quality Assessor.

As of September 2017, nine former refugees will be permanently employed. These individuals were hired directly into different jobs at the company. They are workers who studied, qualified and worked in their field for years before they had to flee. Samson AG is recognizing their foreign credentials and experience. That is significant in the world of refugee employment, and is a promising model for other German companies.

Pioneering

Notwithstanding wide-ranging efforts to accelerate refugee integration across Europe and around the world, Samson AG found itself in a pioneering role among its German corporate peers. As one of the first companies to act in Germany, Schmidt says they “didn’t know what obstacles there would be. But as time passed, we saw what needed to be done with additional training. We worked together with the vocational schools and organized help if needed. We saw huge improvements as these young men started work and training. They acquired good German language skills astonishingly quickly. Working and being part of a group speaking German, being accepted and having something to do gave them so much and helped them finding an everyday living routine. Of course, it took some weeks for them to settle and understand the structures in Germany but they have done a fantastic job.”

Refugees to Germany receive language lessons and support in the community. Samson AG added to this support. Schmidt says the trainees “know that if they need anything we will help. All our refugees have a mentor outside of Samson AG that help them as well.” Challenges continue, especially finding affordable housing for the trainees.

What does the future hold?

Samson AG is an inspiring example of how a company can integrate refugees into their workforce. Their success, Schmidt says, comes from the company’s culture, embodied in the slogan, One Samson AG. One World. For Schmidt, “the diversity we have makes Samson AG so beautiful and interesting. Bringing together people from different backgrounds helps to fight prejudices. We accept each other and the feeling of being accepted improves the working environment for everyone. ”

While the company is thrilled with how well the program is going, Schmidt says they are still learning. At the same time, Samson AG’s approach and efforts have inspired their peers. Other German companies see opportunities to have an impact as employers, as well as the labour market potential that refugees bring. They have approached Samson AG to find out how and what they can do.

Schmidt’s advice to them is simply to act: “Just get started and do not think about problems that might arise, but solve problems when they actually show up.”

Making it Work for You:

  • Start. No initiative has to be perfect in order to implement it. However, you must be open to making changes, learning as you go, and adjusting your employment supports as needed.
  • Get internal support for any refugee employment initiative, from leadership down to all departmental levels. As other employers, such as Germany's Babbel have learned, employees want to get involved and help where they can. At the same time, being open with the entire workforce about what is happening and why is essential.
  • Build on supports refugees might receive in the community. Employers have leverage with government and community institutions to help improve processes and create access for refugees. Use it to help those you employ. The results can mean improvements for all refugees and other vulnerable groups in your community.
  • Understand the role employers to play in refugee resettlement. Employment plays a key role in any newcomer's integration and settlement in their new community. That includes refugees, who have left previous studies, careers and livelihoods in their quest for safety and asylum.
  • It doesn't matter how big or small your business may be. Creating opportunities for even a few refugees provides a signal to other peers, employers, and society that everyone in the community can be active integrating refugees



For this Good Idea contact:

Andrea Schmidt, Samson AG
Weismuellerstrasse 3
Frankfurt Am Main, Germany,
60314
https://www.samson.de/

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