Bell Oensingen is committed to the education of refugees

Two refugees have been studying in a one-year pre-vocational programme at the Bell premises in Oensingen since August. Thereby Bell helps the two men, one from Eritrea and the other from Afghanistan, to a good start in Switzerland’s job market, and at the same time takes care of junior staff development in job fields with a decreasing number of applications.

Bell should be involved – it became clear to Johannes Meister, HR Manager of the Bell Food Group, as soon as he learned about the planned pilot project for the training preparations of refugees in the canton Solothurn. On the one hand, it was an objective to become involved for people who had to flee from war and destruction. On the other hand, immigration offers Bell an opportunity to find apprentices for jobs where the number of applicants is significantly decreasing, as in the case of the meat specialist. Thus, Johannes Meister established the first contacts with the authorities himself, and created the link to the production plant in Oensingen.

From here, Sybille Walpert, HR Manager of the plant, took over the initiative, and prepared the involvement together with the competent bodies. After a couple of phone calls and meetings, it became clear that Abdulsalam Mohamed from Eritrea was the right candidate for the so-called «Integrationsvorlehre» (INVOL) (integration pre-training) as meat assistant. This one-year dual training programme is offered to recognised or temporarily admitted refugees at the age of 18 to 35.

Abdulsalam Mohamed, 26, has been in Switzerland since August 2014. At Bell, he appreciates the sound cooperation with colleagues, as for example with his trainer, Marco Burkhardt. His overall goal is to successfully pass the butcher training and to find a permanent job afterward.

Acting on his own initiative, Aziz Ullah Eqbali also applied for a taster week as logistics provider. «At the beginning, we had no idea that he also wanted to participate in the INVOL programme and we actually didn’t plan any recruitment for the pre-training», explained Daniel Winter, vocational trainer in logistics in Oensingen. «Since he enthused us from the very first day, we decided to include him anyway.»

Aziz Ullah Eqbali, 21, came to Switzerland at the end of 2015. He likes everything that has anything to do with logistics. For the future, he wishes to be successful in his job and to build a life for himself in his new home country. His trainer, Daniel Winter helps him among others with that.

However, it turned out that the asylum procedure of the young Afghan had not yet been concluded and thus, he was out of question when it came to the integration pre-training programme. «As he heard the news, his disappointment was written all over his face», recounted Sybille Walpert. «Nevertheless, since he had been so dedicated throughout his entire training, we wanted to keep him. Thus, we searched for another solution – and we found it with the one-year long pre-vocational training, which is also open for asylum seekers.»

Both immigrants have been preparing for the training start together with Swiss trainees since August. Thereby, both sides benefit from the multinational cooperation. The Swiss colleagues help their peers in writing the weekly reports, for example, while Abdulsalam Mohamed and Aziz Ullah Eqbali lift up the team with their inexhaustible eagerness to learn and their motivation.

«At the moment, the most important thing for us is that both men successfully complete the pre-training programme and start with the real training next year», explained Sybille Walpert. The signs are positive in this regard – also at school, where both men stand out with their good grades. Here, supervisors already had a lot to smile about: Aziz Ullah Eqbali was very sad about his first grade. As someone tried to comfort him by telling him that it’s fine to get a lower score every now and then, it turned out that he had received a 5.5. Thus, half a score under the best grade in the Swiss system. However, only the 6 counted as really good for the ambitious 21-year-old.