These German businesses are hiring refugees to plug the skills gap

What do a German car manufacturer, railway operator and global courier service have in common? They all employ refugees.

Volkswagen, the largest carmaker in Europe, Germany's state-owned railway operator Deutsche Bahn and Deutsche Post DHL are all seeing results from their decision to invest in people who have started a new life in Germany after fleeing war.

“Refugees are bringing special skills with them. We have to figure them out and use them,” said Annette Mock from DPD DHL Group, which provides training and internships to 450 refugees across Germany. “They are really committed people and they are bringing enthusiasm, understanding and also skills and resilience.”

Neither philanthropy nor charity is the motivation here; this is, increasingly, business as usual in a European state which has operated an open-border policy.

Von Alexander Court, World Economic Forum

More than one million asylum-seekers arrived in Germany during 2015 and 2016. Many of these people have valuable professional experience, but the firms understand that training is crucial if this hiring approach is going to be effective.

In each of these three companies, refugee employees experience a combination of intensive German lessons along with hands-on practical experience. Workshops, mentors, classrooms – it's all part of the job.

“The refugees we bring into our company do a really, really good job,” said Martin Seiler, member of the management board at Deutsche Bahn AG, which has more than 400 refugees in their training programme that operates in 10 locations across Germany. “It's really a win-win situation because we get employees onboard with broader diversity, with another background and with a high potential for motivation and engagement for the company.”

But other staff members don’t miss out on upskilling and training. They also attend workshops on how to improve their cultural awareness and sensitivity when working in teams with refugees and other people who are adapting to a new environment.

Other companies which have recognised the value of skilled and motivated refugees include Porsche, Deutsche Telekom and SAP, a multinational firm that develops software for businesses.

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