Work means integration

Feeling being safe from one day to the next is still something of a luxury for Abdoulaye Fofana. Now he is starting an apprenticeship as an industrial electronics technician at thyssenkrupp’s steel division, along with 16 other young men.

Feeling being safe from one day to the next is still something of a luxury for Abdoulaye Fofana; for many years the 19-year-old from Sierra Leone was unable to sleep or eat without fear. Two years ago he was one of many refugees who climbed over the six-meter barbed wire fence surrounding the city of Melilla, a Spanish exclave near Morocco; today he likes nothing better than to lose himself in books about electric circuits and multiway switches. Now he is starting an apprenticeship as an industrial electronics technician at thyssenkrupp’s steel division, along with 16 other young men. So far, 40 apprenticeship places have been created throughout the thyssenkrupp Group – in addition to the regular apprenticeships – to help integrate refugees.

Abdoulaye Fofana was able to attend school in Sierra Leone for six years before his grandmother’s money ran out. “Of course, I was afraid to leave my homeland alone at just 16,” says Fofana, but he was driven by the need to get away from a life without prospects. His father died young, and he has barely any contact with his mother and his half brothers and sisters. After years on the move, often enduring terrible conditions, he finally arrived in Germany, where he was able to complete his schooling at a vocational college in Duisburg. He spends his free time learning, and that has paid off: A multi-week internship at thyssenkrupp gave him the opportunity to show what he is capable of, “and now I’m going to do all I can to make my apprenticeship a success.”

Intercultural training for instructors – technical German for apprentices

“Our apprenticeship instructors receive intercultural training and among other things are taught to recognize signs of trauma,” says Volker Grigo, head of talent management at thyssenkrupp’s steel division. “The refugees attend German courses where the focus is on technical vocabulary. But for health and safety reasons alone there can be no separate “apprenticeship lite” – the exam requirements are the same for all apprentices.”

This is a challenge Abdoulaye Keita is meeting with hard work and talent: Having fled to Germany alone aged 16 from Guinea, where his father was killed in the civil war, he worked his way through the German educational system one step at a time. Despite initially speaking very little German he completed junior high school (Hauptschulabschluss), then achieved the higher secondary school certificate (Realschulabschluss) and eventually also his technical high school diploma (Fachabitur). He is now 22, speaks excellent German, and is starting an apprenticeship as a mechatronics engineer with our subsidiary thyssenkrupp Rasselstein in Andernach because he enjoys working with electronic components and combining them into complex systems with control software. “In Guinea I would have had no chance. After my apprenticeship I would like to obtain my master technicians diploma and maybe one day become an instructor myself for German and foreign apprentices – that’s my dream.”

“The main thing is to learn a profession”

For Inza Bamba too, life during the civil war in Ivory Coast was all about surviving. He fled West Africa in 2011 and after a long journey arrived in Germany in winter 2014. “The main thing was to get to Europe, to get away from the war and learn a profession,” says Bamba, who lost his mother at an early age and his father in the civil war. When he had just turned 16 he decided to leave his home country. “I miss my friends, but I feel very happy here,” says Bamba, who is now 19. He completed year 10 at a vocational college together with Abdoulaye Fofana and is now also starting an apprenticeship as an industrial electronics technician.

17 refugees are starting apprenticeships in thyssenkrupp’s steel division at these sites: Duisburg 8, Dortmund 1, Bochum 2, Kreuztal-Eichen 2, Andernach 4. Numerous internship contracts have also been awarded.

“we.help”: Over 40 Group apprenticeship contracts with refugees

thyssenkrupp is one of the founder members of the German industry integration initiative “Wir zusammen” (We together) under which companies are helping refugees integrate in Germany by offering them work. thyssenkrupp launched its “we.help” refugee program in September 2015, providing 150 additional apprenticeship places and 230 additional internships up to and including 2017. 200 internship contracts and over 40 apprenticeship contracts have already been signed. Nearly all refugees starting their training at thyssenkrupp secured their places by completing an internship and gaining entry-level vocational qualifications. To provide a good basis for work and vocational school, the Group also offers advanced German courses for the refugees.

More Information about the topic:

German President honors integration through training

German Federal President at the thyssenkrupp Quarter

“What started in people’s heads has now reached their hearts”