The Linguist

The Linguist 55,5

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 14 of 35 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2016 The Linguist 15 FEATURES of working with migrant workers and integrating them through language learning," said the spokesman. "That's why McDonald's donated language courses, rather than just money, because that helps refugees integrate better and makes it easier for them to enter the job market." So would McDonald's be interested in recruiting refugees? Absolutely, asserts the spokesman, who hopes the donation will strengthen McDonald's image as a possible future employer. "We're always on the lookout for competent, well-qualified staff." Take Robert Jarosz, for example, a 39-year- old Polish national who came to Germany in 2005 and has been working for McDonald's in Frankfurt ever since. Initially serving behind the counter, he is now a shift leader and heads a team of 55-75 people, including managers, part-time staff and students. He is currently enrolled in a state-recognised vocational training course to become assistant manager. Frankfurt is a multicultural city, he says, so the staff he works with come from all over the world – from Poland, Croatia and Italy to Romania, Tunisia and Sri Lanka. "We have a few Germans as well," he laughs. So how does he communicate with his fellow workers: in English or German? "I speak Russian, and a bit of English, but at McDonald's we all speak German to one another," he says. Jarosz began learning German at night school, but switched to Lingua TV because it was more user-friendly and free for employees. "I don't have to rush to language classes anymore if I don't feel like it after work," he explains. Now he can learn via his smartphone, whenever he likes, for as long as he wants. "I'm completely flexible, so I actually do more than I used to when I had to attend language classes," he says. "I even did some learning when I was home on holiday!" As Jarosz's German improved, so did his career chances. "Here in Germany it's important to have a nationally-recognised qualification," he says, adding that many new arrivals don't understand the importance of qualifications in Germany, especially as earnings are comparatively low during training. "But those are cultural misunderstandings," he says. "Once people speak better German, they have a better understanding of those things too." Benefits for all "Many people fleeing the terrors of war, expulsion from their home country or persecution stay in their adopted country for many years; some even stay for ever," noted Becker. "Such people needed support and encouragement so they could be integrated into the workforce and ultimately earn their own living." McDonald's has set an "important example" in this respect, he concluded. Not to be outdone, several big German car makers also offered support packages. Audi announced it would donate €1 million to help refugees. Company staff at Audi headquarters in Ingolstadt, as well as plants throughout Europe, are supporting integration projects with local relief organisations."We want to provide swift and unbureaucratic support," said Audi chairman Rupert Stadler. Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche is also determined to support refugees. The company offers language and integration courses alongside job opportunities and training. "These are the sort of people we need in Germany," said Zetsche in a recent interview, adding that he hopes refugees might help to mitigate the acute shortage of skilled labour the country is facing. BMW's support programme, called "Work Here!", was launched in November 2015, with a cohort of 40 refugees. It provided an inside view of German car manufacturing, including development, production, marketing and IT, over a six-week period at the company's Munich headquarters. Participants got further training, and learnt German and intercultural skills, to improve their long-term prospects in the country. "The programme overall was very successful," confirms company spokesman Jochen Frey. "To date, a total 220 participants have taken part in the programme. Most are based in Munich, others in BMW plants, such as Leipzig and Berlin." The majority come from Syria and Afghanistan, he adds. They must speak some German in order to understand safety measures, and have basic technical knowledge. That way, he says, they get maximum benefit from the programme, which includes language and integration courses at the BMW Training Academy in Munich. Yet there were some unexpected hitches. "Initially, we had a dropout rate between 10% and 20%," says Frey. Participants selected by the BA "didn't always realise what it was all about", and had "false expectations". Consequently, BMW started to run open days so prospective candidates knew what the programme involved. Both sides now benefit enormously from the experience, says Frey, especially the work aspect, which is often very different to what refugees are used to back home. "Most of all, they gain valuable insight into how things work in Germany," he adds. BMW's German staff benefit too, as the refugees see and experience things differently, which broadens the horizons and perspective of the entire team. Moreover, rather than just hearing about migrants through the media, German workers get the chance to meet people from other countries personally. The BA continues to assess refugees' knowledge and abilities. The problem is that many lack formal qualifications that allow employers to judge their skills and assess what they still have to learn. "It will take time and patience to integrate everyone," concedes Becker. Yet he is optimistic that, in the long term, today's refugees will become the skilled workers of tomorrow Germany so badly needs. We will manage, as Chancellor Merkel would say. CAREER BOOST McDonald's employees have been able to progress through the company after taking German classes © SHUTTERSTOCk

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Linguist - The Linguist 55,5