Kassel , Germany

Refugee Day: Jobs and Opportunity

Landkreis Kassel

January 31, 2019

A chance to spend one day working for a local employer puts refugee jobseekers on a path to full employment.

When Europe experienced an influx of refugees, the district of Kassel, like other German cities and regions, was tasked to receive some of them. In all almost 2700 refugees moved into the area. Immediate settlement was essential, but so too was long term integration and inclusion.

With the influx of refugees to the region, the District of Kassel created a local coordinating network of public, private and community groups. Their goal is to ensure that both the refugees receive needed support as well as to provide community members with a space to ask questions and address any local concerns about refugee integration. Project partners include the local community college, youth employment services and youth serving organizations, and health groups.

When employment emerged as a top priority for both refugee job-seekers and local businesses, the District partners recognized an opportunity to bring both sides of the equation together.

District authorities had long understood that North Hessian employers were looking for motivated workers but struggling to fill jobs and apprenticeships.  Inspired by Germany’s Girls and Boys Day, Kassel’s Department of Social Affairs created Refugees’ Day on the same model to give refugee jobseekers a special opportunity to spend ‘one day’ working in a regional company. The path from refugee jobseeker to intern to fully-employed community member was swift.

A community effort

Refugees’ Day’s goal is to make connections between refugees and companies with hiring needs, moving from a one-day internship, to apprenticeship, to hiring the new community members. It takes place in the cities of Lohfelden, Kaufungen, and Hofgeismar. In its sixth year, 20 refugees recently tried out a variety of positions in different industries and sectors, from office to sales in areas ranging from handicrafts, hairdressing, and catering to automobiles, electrical and gardening.

To make the Day a success takes much planning, support and work. Working with their network of community, industry and government partners, the District of Kassel creates occupational profiles of interested refugees and then works with its network to identify and match them with employers.

By accessing funding from the European Union the District has been able to offer important supports to employers who already employ or intend to hire refugees. Support services are tailored to the needs of the employer. This can include addressing legal hurdles for employment, helping with of language problems, or special requirements due to different cultural experiences. Committed and interested employers make the difference in the training and integration of refugee workers.

Committed and interested employers make the difference

At Energy Glas GmbH (which produces energy efficient triple window panes) six Afghans, an Eritrean and a Somali work at the specialist for insulating glass, almost all as semi-skilled production workers, one as an intern. Almost half have been hired as permanent employees. “The refugees are motivated,” says Managing Director Hans Franke. “They receive the same pay as others.”

Franke is familiar with concerns of other employers when it comes to hiring refugees, but after hiring the refugees he doesn’t share them. His experience supports the importance of projects like Refugees’ Day, which brings newcomers and locals together to meet and get to know each other. As is typically the case, once employers meet refugees they become more than convinced of their potential as workers.

Building on success

Refugees’ Day has resulted in numerous internships and over 200 refugees finding work. Always evaluating how best to support both newcomers and employers, the District has piloted a more intensive support program. In June 2016, the pilot Project 15+5 was started. Project 15+5 provides young refugees with 15 months intensive learning and orientation and 5 months of on-the-job training or work experience.

The District found one of the biggest challenges facing  the integration of refugees into local employment is a lack of German language proficiency. This is especially important for young refugees transitioning from school to employment. They often lack work experience and need confidence in their communication abilities.

Project 15+5 focuses on intensive language skills training as well as job orientation, and workplace preparation. Funded by the Hessian Ministry of Social Affairs and Integration (Hessischen Ministerium für Soziales und Integration) and the District of Kassel, the pilot is considered an important building block towards labour market integration for the refugee participants. Project 15+5 has four phases:

  1. in-class language acquisition up to level A2 (of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment), provided by the local Community College + professional orientation;
  2. in-class language acquisition up to level B1 + vocational preparation I (practice days in non-profit work areas supported by a local non-profit);
  3. in-class language and educational upgrading (optional language & mathematics training) + vocational preparation II (including internships, work placement and work on Refugees’ Days);
  4. On-the-job support in the start-up phase of training with an employer.

The project started in June 2016. With the support of the District’s local refugee support network, more than 20 apprentices recently started their training both in large companies and in small and medium sized businesses. They also participated in the recent Refugees’ Day in April 2018.

The District has also introduced a longer-term internship, to allow employers to observe a refugee’s abilities and skills over a period of six to twelve months in daily work. With this type of internship a company can better assess its performance and reduce potential concerns.

The District is also currently running a crowdfunding campaign to expand on their successes working with refugees and employers. With the additional money, the District plans to expand language courses for the refugees and provide support for job-related materials, such as workwear, transit tickets, and grants for specific skill qualifications, such as driver and forklift licences.


Helping the refugees living in the District of Kassel find employment and training is not achievable without local community and government actors becoming involved and offering their support.

The District found willing partners among the Chamber of Skilled Trades Kassel (Handwerkskammer Kassel) which was looking for suitable jobs for refugees and supporting employers. The Education Consultant of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (Industrie- und Handelskammer Kassel-Marburg) helps with education planning and supports for refugees. The Education Coordinator for Newcomers examines educational requirements, sees what is missing and works to develop qualification modules for refugees. The Volkshochschule Kassel (VHS – Community College) supports the project with experience and creative educational ideas and plays a coordinating role with local partners. Funding comes from the Federal Ministry of Labour.

Refugees’ Day partners are aware that not all problems of the labour market in the region can be solved through hiring refugee. However, they have targeted particular sectors that appear to be a fit, especially in the field of logistics, crafts, food/restaurants and the construction industry. In these sectors the employment and training of refugees plays an increasingly important role.

So far the partners have helped find employment for more than 200 refugees. This initial success is an example of what can come out of companies, government and community partners working to support both refugees and the local economy.

Making it Work for You:

  • Replicate an idea that already has structure and success for refugees. Germany's Girls and Boys Day was a familiar and successful model that employers understood and could implement without much difficulty
  • Get employer champions' experiences out there early. Companies that have had success are essential to encouraging other employers to come on board. Amplifying their voices and stories of success is essential
  • Support refugees, but also employers. Bureaucracy can make it risky for employers to commit to hiring refugees. Help them mitigate risk by highlighting the opportunity and providing direct support where needed
  • Take a multi-level approach to working with government and work together to remove barriers
  • Build on your success, share your experience with others.

For this Good Idea contact:

Bijan Otmischi, District of Kassel
Albert-Einstein-Str. 6
Fuldabrück, Germany,
34277 Fuldabrück

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