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Berlin Program Helps Minorities Enter Workforce

  • Michael Scaturro

German Chancellor Angela Merkel caused a stir three years ago when she declared the country's integration policies a failure. Since that time, though, several new programs have sprung up with the aim of giving immigrants a fair shot at a career in Europe's largest economy. One such program is called "Berlin Needs You," and it has been successful placing minority youths into full-time jobs for the past four years.

Ayse is a Turkish-German Berliner employed by the city. She found her job through Berlin Needs You

At the program's recent annual meeting, counselors said they'd hit a milestone - 25 percent of new hires at city agencies now come from immigrant backgrounds.

Some of the program's newest participants - like Hussein El Ali and Cihad Yildiz - talked about their experiences. Both just finished internships at the city's water company, and want to transition to full-time apprenticeships soon.

"There was a lot of variety. We didn't get bored. Our team leaders were nice. They were really patient with our questions. We could ask all the questions we needed to," said Yildiz.

"I agree. Our boss had his hands full but he always made time to help us," said El Ali.

One person looking to hire students from migrant backgrounds was Charlotte Kruhoffer, who represents Germany's largest hospital system.

"Apart from myself being of a migration background - I'm from Denmark - the whole hospital subscribes to the idea that Berlin is a very diverse city. We have people from all over the world. And the people we have working in the hospitals have to mirror that," said Kruhoffer.

Ayla Kadi is a consultant to the program. She said Berlin Needs You plays a vital role in helping kids from uneducated families recognize their potential.

"Their parents are not educated, their friends are not educated, they're at school with many other children who are also from families which are not educated. For them, working in industry is completely foreign. It's for them like another country," said Kadi.

The city's police force is also taking part in the program. About one-fifth of this year's list of recruits includes officers from Turkish, Vietnamese and African backgrounds.

Fatih Göre is a Turkish-German policeman from Berlin, and a mentor.

"Migrant youths want to take part. Of course there are people who are skeptical of the police. But many want to join the force, take part in society, and have a stable job," said Göre.

Though Berlin has met its quota, diversity in the public sector doesn't seem to be replicating itself nationally. New data by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows that Germany still has the lowest percentage of minority public servants in the 34-member group.

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