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Job Market

Migrantinnen helfen Migrantinnen (Immigrants Helping Immigrants)

A group of four immigrant women sitting on a couch, laughing

By Anna Renkamp

Immigrants are a massive potential workforce: in the period between 1990 and 2002 alone, a total of 4.6 million people immigrated to Germany. Provided with gainful employment, their intercultural skills could give Germany an important competitive advantage and help promote both general and personal prosperity. But it’s not working out that way. Older immigrants rarely find a new job if they lose the one they have. Teenagers and young adults often fail to find gainful employment in the first place.

In both cases, the reason is their lack of education and training. About 70 percent of all foreign-born unemployed persons are unskilled laborers. Improvement does not appear to be on the horizon: about 40 percent of all youths from immigrant families drop out of school, or they do not complete any vocational training. Moreover, their families are often not aware of the problem; many first-generation immigrants do not realize that they are robbing their offspring of any possibility of upward mobility if they do not encourage them to learn a profession. A Bertelsmann Stiftung study showed that high wage-replacement benefits and the educational and training gap among immigrants are two major factors preventing successful integration into the labor market. The group’s unemployment rate is 20 percent, or twice as high as that of the population as a whole.

To break this vicious circle of long-term unemployment and ignorance, the foundation has started the Migrantinnen helfen Migrantinnen – MiM (Immigrants Helping Immigrants) initiative for female migrants along with its partners Mozaik Consulting and the AWO (German Workers’ Welfare) associations as part of its Equal IN.OWL – Innovationsnetzwerk für Beschäftigung in Ostwestfalen (EQUAL IN.OWL Initiative for Employment in Eastern Westphalia). The initiative consists of two modules: in the Patinnennetzwerk (Godmothers’ Network) module, young female immigrants are assigned a godmother to help them through the transitional period between school and work; the godmothers are successful professionals who have graduated from college or a training course. They help and advise the young women and are also available for group discussions in schools.

The godmother program is supplemented by a 12-week education and training course for unemployed women under the age of 25. In these TIP (Testing, Informing, Practicing) pilot courses, participants improve language skills, acquire basic computer skills, and complete an advanced job-application training course. The first TIP course concluded in late July 2003 with a placement rate of 69 percent.

The second module, Integrationshelfer (Integration Assistant), networks men and women who encourage immigrants to take part in society. Their help is often of a practical nature: they accompany their protégés on trips to government offices and doctors’ visits, support them in filling out forms and applications, and motivate them to participate in parent-teacher conferences and language courses. There are currently 17 integration assistants who each support an average of five persons per quarter. A total of about 400 people will be assisted over the course of the project.

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