Helping Refugees: Meeting, Educating, Integrating

Since the summer of 2015, the Volkswagen Group has been vigorous in its efforts to support the wave of refugees arriving in Germany. Together with employees and their representatives, the Group and brands have been donating time, expertise and resources. Volkswagen considers that the most urgent priorities for refugees at present are to learn German and acquire entry-level qualifications, as these are the keys for accessing further education and training and integration in the labor market. In 2016, approximately 2,650 refugees were given access to language and foundation training courses. The Volkswagen Group’s commitment to aiding refugees comprises three strands, in which the following took place during 2016:

  • Meeting: support for several thousand refugees by means of donations, volunteering and get-to-know events. 
  • Educating: grants for 100 refugees, language and integration courses for 1,400+ refugees over several months, classes and targeted support for integration and skills for work, support for minors at school.
  • Integrating: work placements and internships for 340 refugees, skill assessment measures and career guidance for over 870 refugees.

Meeting – From Initial Aid to Help with Everyday Life

Since the summer of 2015, many Volkswagen employees have given their time and know-how to help set up accommodation for and provide practical assistance to refugees. The company supports this large-scale voluntary involvement by offering the services of its experts, making donations in kind and providing vehicles for aid organizations.

Evolving out of initial efforts to provide immediate aid, the brands and their employees have been involved in developing a variety of short and long-term social support initiatives. These range from organizing language courses and participation in sports through to helping with everyday life. For instance, MAN initiated a long-term trainee sponsorship program for unaccompanied refugee minors. As part of this program, the trainees organize opportunities to meet and get to know refugees, while refugees get an insight into work at MAN. These initiatives are complemented by a variety of projects run by individual brands which are aimed at encouraging employees and refugees to get to know one another and swap experiences. One example of this is the “Kitchen Stories” intercultural cooking evenings offered by Volkswagen.

Educating – From Language Courses to Higher Education

At various stages of their educational journey, the Volkswagen Group is helping refugees learn the language, obtain qualifications and understand German culture. This begins with the very youngest: the Volkswagen Employees’ Foundation supports children and adolescents during three years at school through donations of some €2.5 million to fund language learning, integration and the acquisition of qualifications. 

Across the Group, the Volkswagen and Audi brands offer – directly or in cooperation with educational providers – language courses at different levels over a number of months. In addition, Audi is enabling two classes to obtain school-leaving certificates. Participants, who are over the compulsory schooling age, are helped to acquire a general secondary school certificate (“Hauptschulabschluss”) through a combination of general lessons, additional German lessons and socio-educational support.

The Volkswagen Group also helps refugees obtain university degrees. In cooperation with the charity start-up “Kiron Open Higher Education”, university places in IT and engineering are offered. Two years of online study combined with a classroom phase at a German university lead to a Bachelor’s degree.

Integrating – From Placement to Starting a Career

The aim of initiatives in this area is to help prepare refugees step by step for entering the German education system and labor market. Through placements and internships at a number of different Volkswagen Group brands, refugees gain an initial insight into working life in Germany. 

To get this project off the ground, in 2016 the Volkswagen brand ran a pilot refugee work experience program. The program was accompanied by workplace training modules covering language, job application coaching and intercultural awareness. 

Volkswagen Financial Services runs training courses to help refugees obtain truck drivers’ licenses. In addition, they offer access to vocational qualifications that recognize qualifications in financial services obtained in refugees’ countries of origin.

In Hanover, as part of a SPRINT language and integration project, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is offering young refugees a combination of German lessons and hands-on experience in a work environment – the first initiative of its kind in Lower Saxony. 

With a combination of vocational subjects, career guidance and practical experience, the “integration year” at Porsche prepares refugees for apprenticeships or starting work. The first intake of the Porsche integration year graduated in August 2016. Most participants were either able to start an apprenticeship or were taken on by the company on a temporary contract basis. At Audi and MAN, initiatives to provide refugees with entry-level qualifications have also been successfully launched. 

In line with our philosophy of sustainability, the projects described will continue throughout 2017 and the range of projects will be further expanded. New initiatives to help refugees prepare for work and obtain qualifications are set to commence in 2017. 

Encoutering – at Kitchen Stories“ for refugees and Volkswagen employees
Integration – Internships and first insights into the german vocational work
Education– language courses held, at different levels (at Audi AG)