BERLIN – A startup company in Berlin is trying to help integrate last year's flood of migrants into the German workforce with a tailor-made online job market for new arrivals.
The website www.MigrantHire.com was founded earlier this year by a mix of Germans and migrants, and operates with a staff of five volunteers out of a shared working space in a former industrial building in Berlin's trendy Kreuzberg district.
More than 8,000 migrants have registered on the website — a fraction of the 890,000 asylum-seekers who arrived in Germany last year but good sign that some are serious about finding employment.
The website helps migrants create resumes that match German standards, then connects the applicants to German companies. It's free for the migrants and relies on donations and volunteers.
MigrantHire co-founder Hussein Shaker has channeled his own experience trying to find work as a migrant into helping others. Back in the Syrian city of Aleppo, he studied information technology, but when he came to Germany he couldn't find any work in the IT sector. Instead he ended up working in a call center while learning German.
When he was approached with the idea of MigrantHire by Remi Mekki, a Norwegian entrepreneur living in Berlin, he immediately quit his job and threw himself into the project.
On a normal workday he and others help migrants write resumes, answer questions about German employment law and help migrants apply for jobs that companies have posted on the website.
"It is not easy," he says about the thousands of migrants looking for jobs. "The migrants had to leave everything behind but I think that, in the end, I think it will all work out."
For Syrian migrant Naji Negmah, it already has. After a year spent learning German, Negmah was put in contact by MigrantHire with a security company in Berlin. After an interview, the 24-year-old from Damascus who arrived in 2014 was given a 10-day training course, then started working as a security guard at an asylum-seekers home in Berlin.
Now he works fulltime on the same contract as all the other staff.
Negmah is greeted by a group of children as he enters the four-story former office building that now houses around 200 asylum-seekers, mostly from Syria but also Afghanistan and Iraq. He speaks Arabic to the children, and they think of him as one of their own.
"When I came here, I knew I wanted get a job that let me help other migrants," he said in fluent German. "This job lets me do that."
At the security company, recent migrants make up about 25 percent of the guards.
Owner Seyed Ali Khatoun Abadi, who came to Germany as a refugee from Iran in 1986, says the recent arrivals are the perfect fit since they can speak to most of the asylum-seekers in their own language and they understand the stress and issues facing them.
But not everyone's had as much luck as Negmah. Even with Germany's national employment rate at only 4.1 percent, the government says 400,000 asylum-seekers are currently looking for work.
According to a study published by the Federal Department for Migration and Refugees, only 13 percent of asylum-seekers find work in the first two years after arriving in Germany — but that figure increases to 22 percent in the third year and 31 percent in the fourth year.
Negmah is grateful to the website.
"I like this work," he says. "I want to continue working as a security guard."