These days, integration is a word that is indelibly etched in our vocabulary. And the integration of refugees is a particularly important topic. Many people who come to us from war-torn countries have obtained regular qualifications in their homeland and some have even completed higher education. These are the people Germany can help more than anyone to lead an independent life, fully integrated into society. People like Osama Alsaeed, for example, a young man currently undergoing just such an education at Magnesia GmbH.
Osama Alsaeed gets off to a flying start
A young man starts to train as a wholesale and foreign trade salesman at Magnesia GmbH in 2019. Nothing unusual. Five years ago, however, there was no indication that Osama Alsaeed would be trained up in Germany. At that point, he was living a normal life in Syria. Today, he lives as refugee in Lüneburg. With quite a few hurdles but a lot of chances and confidence.
Read the full story of Osama Alsaeed here
32 years at a glance...
Osama Alsaeed was born in Syria in 1988. He went to school there until 2008, when he graduated from high school. He was then trained as a train dispatcher and took a distance learning course in IT. Not an unusual career path for people in Germany who want to get somewhere in life either.
But Syria has been in a state of civil war since 2011, and the situation in the country is getting worse. In 2012, Osama Alsaeed is forced to abandon his studies. Two years later, he has to abandon his job as a train dispatcher. All the young man wants is to lead a safe and happy life, but instead he is forced to leave his country and find a whole new direction. When the day comes, Osama Alsaeed does not hesitate to not only leave his old life, but also his family and his homeland behind. As the young man refused to do his military service in the Syrian army, he has no other choice. Syria has mandatory conscription and there are no exceptions. Anyone who does not want or is not able to join the army is arrested.
So Osama Alsaeed sets off on his way, first fleeing to Turkey in 2015 and then continuing on to Germany. He ends up in a flat-sharing community in Reppenstedt. There he also meets a volunteer language godmother, Mrs. Backhaus, who accompanies him to this day. In 2017 he moves to Lüneburg. He had been taking part in a German language integration course there since 2016 at Lüneburg Community College, working temporary jobs in bars and at the Christmas market. Osama Alsaeed is slowly getting there, but still has a way to go. One day, he reads an advert in Arabic by the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) and applies immediately. He loves helping people.
Trained as a train dispatcher, he will be unable to continue on the same career path in Germany. The language barriers are too high and too many lives are at stake. He does not want to risk it. Osama Alsaeed therefore decides to go a different route. During the weekly meetings of the THW, he quickly realises his knowledge of German is getting better and better. He can now make himself understood very well. His various temporary jobs help too, as they force him to actively use the new language if he wants to achieve something. So he does. THW trains him up for six months and at the end he takes a theory test and a practical exam. He passes. He continues to work for the THW once a week. He also starts to actively look for jobs...
Osama Alsaeed’s luck changes
The Education Fair in Lüneburg eventually becomes a real stepping stone for him. Osama Alsaeed becomes acquainted with a lot of different companies and ends up applying for Magnesia GmbH. They invite him for an interview. One week after the interview, Osama Alsaeed completes one day of work experience at the company and he really likes it.
His fellow employees make a particularly good impression. They give him a warm welcome and help him overcome any language barriers. After his work experience day, the company offers him what is known as an entry-level vocational qualification (EQ). This gives Osama Alsaeed the opportunity to get to know the company and his future vocational college for one whole year. It will also allow him to improve his knowledge of German significantly, making this year a great success for everyone involved. Now nothing stands in the way of a real training contract. The start date of this is exactly one year after the EQ, on the 1st of August 2019.
A new life and a secure future
Osama Alsaeed has trained as a wholesale and foreign trade salesmen at Magnesia GmbH for three whole years. He also spends 11 Saturdays a year obtaining the additional qualification of European salesman. He learns Spanish as a second foreign language and spends time abroad in Ireland.
Osama Alsaeed fled his country to escape an uncertain life in a war zone and arrest because of his refusal to conscript. But he never lost sight of his goal to live a good life. He educated himself, took opportunities and was soon able to stand on his own two feet. He quickly realised that a new language is not only learned in the classroom. So he went out, met lots of people, did lots of jobs and practised the German language more and more.
If you would ask him today if it was difficult to leave his homeland, his family and his job overnight, the answer would be „Yes, but... It is worth listening to his experiences. You learn so much that can also help other people that started out like him."
When asked: „How was it at the start in a strange country, not being able to make yourself understood?"
He replies: „It was hard (...) I did not have any human contact and when I went shopping I had to speak English. Not everyone could speak English. That was hard for me, so I told myself: No! I have to learn German."
Another important question is how much support he received from others when he had to start his career from scratch. His answer shows how important other people’s help is, but also his own stubborn desire to make it.
When asking Magnesia GmbH about their experiences with training refugees, the responses are also food for thought. Many people forget that refugees often already have a good educational background. Before the start of the war, their lives were very similar to those of the German people.
We asked Markus Cording: „Do refugees receive special support or a special settling-in period?"
He replies as follows: „The help he had at the start, during the first year, was an entry-level scheme and qualification, supported by the job centre. During this year, he also regularly attended vocational college, although with additional language support.” Cording continues: „This is a phase in our company that allows him to slowly settle in and receive the necessary entry-level support. He has already completed this first year and now he is following regular training as normal (...) He no longer has a special role (...)"
An equally important question is how well accepted he was by the employees on site. Cording is very positive in this respect: „Yes, I believe that because of his personality he received enormous support throughout the company. (...) He immediately received positive feedback from all areas. There were no misgivings whatsoever."
This refugee story ended on a positive note. When asking Osama Alsaeed about his plans and wishes for the future, he replies as always – hopeful and with purpose: „I would like to do everything step by step (...). My goal is first of all to successfully finish my training, and to work as a a wholesale and foreign trade salesman then. Perhaps there are possibilities for further vocational training. I`m also thinking about a study.“
Any company can take part
Lots of companies are committed to helping refugees, providing them with jobs and education and helping them to integrate into our society. Stories such as that of Osama Alsaeed are a clear example of how this commitment can lead to real success.
"I don’t believe we still need to get more companies on board with this kind of thing. We already hear from a lot of other companies that offer different types of integration activities.” He continues: “It’s more a case of reducing the fear these people possible have or mitigating concerns that it will cause arguments between employees. (...) Firstly, it is important for us to stress that this forms part of our company and that it is important for us all to talk about it."
board member at Magnesia GmbH
Companies that are experienced in the integration of refugees usually employ people from various different countries. Not only does Magnesia GmbH have European employees, they also have Syrians, South-Americans, Iranians and people from the Middle-East and Russia working for them. And it works really well. Especially because the employees with the ultimate responsibility for education and integration are always fully involved in the decision-making process. And of course it is always beneficial for any company to be able to talk to customers in various languages.
The world has changed. Every country has residents of different nationalities. Many companies recognised this early on and are promoting multicultural togetherness in working life. This benefits everyone, as each individual employee brings his or her own experiences and skills. And that is also important too: integrating people who have already achieved a lot in their own country. Refugees have left almost everything behind, including their job and their entire life plan.
It stands to reason, therefore, that we have to help these people build a new life in this country. This is not an experiment with an unknown result. Refugees who want to integrate already make a lot of effort to learn the German language of their own accord. They enter activity sectors that will help them on their journey. That is exactly what Osama Alsaeed did. It is also very unlikely that integration will fail when everyone pulls together.