Thanks to everyone who attended the first session of Inter-Act & THRIVE! Important perspectives on the evening’s theme were brought up:
Adaptation to Swiss work life – How can we facilitate the adaptation for refugees and their potential employers?
During this fruitful session, professionals, volunteers, participants and friends of THRIVE discussed seven subquestions in smaller groups. The questions were:
- How can we leverage the THRIVE community to ease the start into new work relationships?
- How can THRIVE better serve the community?
- What is needed to help refugees and employers meet?
- What could an employer do to successfully work with a refugee?
- How can refugees support employers to ease the start into the new work relationship?
- How can employers support refugees to ease the start into the new work relationship?
- What does a successful relationship between employers and refugees look like?
Local and refugee professionals should have neutral platforms to meet each other with no strings attached. This way, a first contact can be established to create human connections. This could for instance happen at networking events or open days at companies.
Once eligible for a job, refugees often require mentoring when starting a new position, meaning that additional time needs to be allocated. On top of that, the administrative work and unclarity of the hiring process puts many employers off. Thus, in the case that employers do not feel comfortable to hire refugees long-term, they could offer flexible internship formats or traineeships, also including positions for older candidates. This initial collaboration can create deep trust on both sides, making work more productive in the future and potentially leading to fixed employment.
To enable professional integration, social integration into the company is a crucial point besides the mentoring mentioned before. Bringing all employees on the same page of the enterprise’s culture is one approach to create a sense of togetherness. Also, the company should foster cultural awareness among its employees to animate interaction amongst them. Participants agreed that in the end, it all goes back to being a “good employer”, who supports its employers, creates a sense of belonging, and is aware of cultural differences.
Finally, participants also mentioned that the skills of refugees and their employers could be complementary, optimally creating a win-win situation for both parties.
As a first step, refugees are expected to learn the local language and get introduced to the local working culture (e.g. be polite and punctual). Furthermore, the World Cafe participants proposed that job seekers put themselves out there and actively make social connections through their networks in different areas. When it comes to the hiring process it was repeatedly mentioned that refugee job seekers should take the responsibility to be proactive and to learn about their own permit status and legal rights. This way, they can also facilitate the administrative process for the employer and share the burden.
In addition, respecting the sometimes lengthy and challenging hiring process as well as the rules and culture of the company, shows respect to the (potential) employer and is crucial for the integration of the job-seeker.
One of the main roles the community saw for THRIVE was to clarify the situation on the different types of permits in an short and comprehensive manner. Besides that, THRIVE should also be aware of the latent racism still present in the society and address it, when visible.
Furthermore, participants proposed that employers are to be contacted more strategically and based on the mapped profiles of the candidates. THRIVE could map the skills of the candidates and specifically target employers based on the skills of the candidate pool. Specifically, a first contact could be focused on internship opportunities, rather than on a longer-term employment.
In addition, to get a maximum reach, THRIVE should collaborate with other associations to create a network of professionals who are available for ad-hoc support with job applications, CVs and references. Furthermore, the THRIVE community is also a source of workforce through its volunteers who can carry out clearly defined tasks and who the members of THRIVE can rely on.
Another innovative idea was to offer incentives for employers to hire a refugee. For instance, it was suggested that they could receive a THRIVE certificate for providing a positively evaluated internship. Participants felt this was a favourable way of creating motivation on the side of employers to offer meaningful work experiences to job-seekers who face additional challenges in the local job market. To ensure employers are confident about the work relationships, THRIVE has to actively look for success stories and share them publicly.
The participants proposed to create a hiring quota for refugees with an F permit in companies of a certain size. This would have to take the form of a cantonal or federal initiative. The idea came up since similar programs exist for long-time unemployed people abroad. It would involve subsidies from the authorities for the companies who hire refugees with an F permit. Furthermore, the UNHCR was repeatedly mentioned as being a potential partner for refugee related activities on the ground.
Last but not least, many refugees have unique skills, but they are not necessarily certified. Besides helping refugees to get diplomas recognized at associations such as découvrir, it is thus up to cantonal institutions such as Hospice General as well as local associations, incl. THRIVE, to explicitly map all skills of the refugee candidate, not just the certified ones.
Conclusion : What’s next ?
Your feedback and answers provided us with valuable insights on existing needs as well as the potential of the THRIVE community.
Besides enriching and shaping our action plan, this exchange of ideas sets the tone for our next Inter-Act & THRIVE session. Paying special attention to mutual trust, complementarity, walking the extra mile and cultural understanding, as established through your input, the next session will include speakers who have incorporated these values into their actions.
On December 14th we will offer you perspectives of refugees working in Swiss companies, employers who have already worked with refugees, as well as representatives of the cantonal administration. Look out for more details, available closer to the date!
We would also like to thank Inter-Actions for the provision of the great room, Rzn Torbey for taking photos during the event and Dekyi, who made the food!
*The answers provided do not necessarily reflect the views of THRIVE