»We want to do our part as a company and help refugees. We can provide valuable resources and expertise – especially when it comes to integrating refugees in the labor market. If we work together to help refugees improve their prospects, the economy can benefit enormously in the long term.«
How are we involved?
For our commitment, we were honored with the LEA Mittelstandpreis, a prestigious German award for companies that take on social responsibility, by the Baden Wuerttemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs.
Many people come to Germany fleeing war and persecution. As a country, we are facing major challenges regarding integration. As a company, we are choosing not to look the other way, but to actively work toward the integration of refugees into the labor market. Of course, this is a big challenge for us; in addition to bureaucratic hurdles, it involves a significant amount of effort in consultation with the refugees, authorities and on-site volunteers.
However, we are convinced that employment is the best strategy for integration and that refugees represent an opportunity for the German labor market. There is a strong demand for skilled workers with problems filling vacancies, especially in the commercial sector. Through our regional refugee projects, we have gotten to know many potential employees who are highly motivated, some of whom are already trained. We have recognized a classic win-win situation.
VAUDE wants to provide refugees with professional prospects. To accomplish this, we post our open positions with asylum networks and the local employment agency. Our HR team has familiarized itself with the complex issue of refugee employment and we have been able to fill seven permanent positions, an entry-level qualification and several internships with refugees. Future job vacancies will be reviewed by the human resources department and forwarded to the local employment agency.
»Together we are strong – these words describe our commitment to refugees. We are successful with our integration program because we are receiving support from all sides and are all working closely together, whether it be colleagues from other departments such as payroll accounting and manufacturing or external partners such as the employment agency.«
We are aware of the challenges regarding language and cultural barriers. Speaking German is a prerequisite for a culture of trust and communication in the workplace, which is why we introduced a free German language course for VAUDE employees starting in March 2017.
To help integrate the refugees into the German culture, common rules for working life and dealing with colleagues is taught using a guideline containing the main points. This also includes issues such as sick leave, holiday leave and working hours.
For 2017 we have set ourselves a goal of further examining and discussing the issue of diversity at VAUDE.
Many employees are passionately involved and are committed to the issue of refugees both in their private life as well as at their workplace.
Our employees’ willingness to help is an important prerequisite for successful integration. These colleagues make a very valuable contribution during a new employee’s training phase and becoming familiar with the daily routine of working at VAUDE. This includes, for example, approachability, accepting deficits in the command of the German language and working together to improve fluency and vocabulary.
At the initiative of our employees, we have opened many of the recreational courses in our Corporate Health Management System to refugees. This type of sports oriented contact is a great way to connect VAUDE’s guiding principles with our integration projects, because often it is easier to overcome cultural and language barriers in a sports setting and easier to make connections.
»I really enjoy supporting my new colleagues in becoming familiar with the everyday routine of working here. I’m delighted to see how well they become integrated into the team and how motivated and loyal they are. But we are also constantly being faced with new, unfamiliar challenges such as preparing for a hearing regarding someone’s asylum status or dealing with a letter of rejection. Here, too, I try to help.«
In September 2016 we organized a VAUDE Open House for refugees. The newcomers participated in the program with great interest. It included both a tour of the company and a more detailed presentation of the individual departments such as warehouse logistics, product services, sales and marketing while focusing on giving them a good idea of German working conditions and a realistic picture of job opportunities.
Another part of the event was providing training for job applications: With a short sketch, the refugees were able to make a first impression of the job application process in a German company. During this training, some refugees had already prepared job applications and were given tips for improvements or other suggestions.
To prevent any possible language barriers and help the refugees throughout the day, VAUDE invited two interpreters for the event who translated both in Farsi and Arabic. Childcare was also provided.
In the summer of 2016 we worked together with refugees at a sewing workshop at the company headquarters in Obereisenbach to make sustainable bags out of remnant materials. Within a few months, a pilot project was developed with the Asylum Network of Tettnang in which refugees visited workshops here at VAUDE.
This made it possible for us to provide meaningful working opportunities for refugees where they could also gain experience in the German labor market. The bags produced were sold at a sales event in Ravensburg. The proceeds flowed back in the form of a donation for a joint project to the Asylnetzwerk Tettnang. Two workshop participants have now been hired by VAUDE as employees in the production facility.
At the same time, we saw that the bags were well received by customers so we are now planning for a long-term production project by creating new positions for refugees.
More about "Upcycling"
These rejection notices have created major uncertainty in our company, particularly in the Manufaktur production facility. – both for the employed refugees as well as their fellow colleagues. Our massive concern has had a negative effect on the working atmosphere and on employee performance. The rejection notices have really unsettled these employees and us as an employer as we continue to need the employees. Anytime an employee is missing, there is a direct correlation with lower production volumes.
The basis for our commitment is based on the assumption that the authorities and politicians must create the general conditions needed in order to help companies implement a welcoming culture and active integration into the labor market.
Therefore, we advocate strongly for the right to stay and legal certainty for refugees who have been successfully integrated into the labor market. As an employer, we need transparent and non-bureaucratic legal certainty in the recruitment of refugees.
We often receive “donation suitable” products. For example, our repair service often receives products that cannot be repaired, but essentially still "work" (such as when a zipper pocket inside can not be replaced, but the jacket is but otherwise in great condition). As a rule, we donate these products to FairWertung, a nonprofit organization that has developed set standards for the fair collection and marketing of second-hand clothing - read more at "Second use".
In the last two years, however, we have been receiving requests from relief organizations and projects for refugees. We examine these requests and provide support where we can by means of product donations.
Donations of outdoor gear to the DAV German Alpine Club project Alpen.Leben.Menschen for their events. The goal of the project is to spend time with refugees in the mountains as a method for contributing to their integration.
We VAUDE employees have also become active and have scoured our closets and toy shelves for donations to an aid organization in Tettnang. Supplies were short there because a large group of refugees had to be housed within a very short timeframe in Tettnang.