Wemployability_refugeeshen Petrus Communications proposed to sponsor my attendance at the refugee conference of the European Association of International Education, I was extremely pleased : Speaking from the corporation perspective (I have done it for so long) – on an important topic, which I also hold at heart – and an invitation to reflect on my experience in the field… ! So thank you, Petrus and EAIE, for inviting me in – I have really enjoyed our discussions!

„Employability and Career Development of Refugees“ – the topic requires a model which can describe differences and evolution at several levels, e.g. cultural and individually and which allows to focus on development. No wonder that as an integral coach, I found Ken Wilber’s ’’stages of development’’ very handy, and even more Frédéric Laloux’ application to organizations, which gives a spot-on summary.


Ten remarks about Employability and Career Development of Refugees

… is the capacity to gain initial employment and to adapt our skill sets to changes of the labour market. Therefore, employability is very much linked to key competences, as these build our capacity to anticipate and to adapt.

Key competences
… that I have seen most often in job adverts are : Customer orientation, result orientation, team orientation, capacity to influence, entrepreneurship, integrity,…. These competences are complex and include other competences, such as anticipation, empathy, tenacity, flexibility etc.

The key competences, which companies search for, reflect focus and complexity of their working environment, and thus they differ: from country to country, sector to sector and company to company. We can relate them to ‘’stages of development’’ of an organization, and the key competences mentioned here-above strongly reflect the needs of an ‘’orange/green’’ organization.

Laloux_stages_development_organizationsFrédéric Laloux: Re-Inventing Organizations
States of development of an organization

Cultural Gap
Indivduals in Afghanistan, Nigeria or Syria etc. have certainly been less exposed to „modern corporations'“ culture, which shape the German or European economy. As individuals they may have experienced sparks of ‘’orange’’ and ‘’green’’, but organizations they have worked in, were mainly in a traditional ‘’amber’’ state – before the war or attack happened. Since their living area was affected by war and violance, people were exposed to ‘’red’’ : permanent execution of power, violence, repression and chaos, the law of survival – and this possibly for many years.

Safety and predictability
The first needs of refugees arriving in Europe are linked to 1. physical safety, 2. pre-dictability of the further process & reliabilty of the actors, 3. work – in other words : getting out of „red“ and getting back into safe „amber“!

Wish to work asap
All refugees who I have met, wanted to work as soon as possible. Work, earn some money, helping the family who stayed in the home country, as well as getting into reliable and predictable processes , making contacts and friends are key to develop into healthy amber, and they are also vital for integration, allowing individuals to find their place.

The door to integration: Traditional, healthy ‘’amber’’
„Amber“ is a good starting point for integration : Expectations are not too complex, they are accessible for most of the refugees – and approx. 40% of the European population live with this perspective. So, people are employable at this level – in jobs that require endurance, regularity, reliability, tenacity. Individually, people can develop further from here at the right time. And it clearly marks a limit : People who do not have ‘’amber’’ competences, are not employable in the labour market in Germany or Europe.

Amber key competences
… are accessible, but not necessarily developped in each refugee. When asking refugee projects for the biggest challenges they encounter, they mention : Reliability, tenacity, regularity, endurance. Developping these competences is of major importance for the employability and therefore integration of the refugees. Initiatives which target this type of skill development need to be given priority from the early stage onwards (e.g. Lernwerkstatt Halle 36).

Refugees need advocacy
Many career opportunities – and in particular higher education – are only accessible through ambituous, rigorous or even entrepreneurial behaviors, whereas refugees who might have huge individual potential, would need guidance to get there. Therefore, it is important to meet refugees where they are : Also higher education can go and meet refugees in the camps. Mentorship is key.

First things first
Each development, inavoidably starts from where the person stands today, who wants to develop – not from the level of the developper. This is hard, as it means to scale our expectations to where the refugees stand now – and this often is ‘amber’, whereas many integration courses seem to be designed from the developper’s perspective aiming at learning ‘’green’’ values. This can create more frustration than solutions, as you cannot ‘learn’ values, you need to develop them. At an amber stage of development, values become rules which must be followed. Breaking the rules must have consequences, and a ‘green’ discussion of values is not adequate. Remember : You cannot skip a development level. We need to guide and accompany refugees in their development, if we want them to integrate successfully.

Lernwerkstatt Halle 36 in Bayernkaserne Munich is an excellent example how you can reach out to refugees in a very early stage, in the camp (Bayernkaserne), and accompany them along various steps: first training in the camp, internship in an associated company, as well as an apprenticeship.

Useful links
Bayernkaserne München: Lernwerkstatt Halle 36
Frederic Laloux: Reinventing Organizations
Leida Schuringa: Refugees in the Netherlands seen from a Spiral Dynamics Integral perspective