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'Migrant Hire' Connects Refugees To German Tech Industry

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Germany's population is aging, and it's shrinking. It needs more workers. It has lots of new working-age residents, migrants who've come in the past few years. Integrating them into the labor market has been a challenge, though. Esme Nicholson introduces us to a Syrian refugee with a solution.

ESME NICHOLSON, BYLINE: Last year, over 200,000 jobs in Germany's IT and science sectors went unfilled. With 300,000 workers retiring each year and the world's lowest birth rate, industry leaders are concerned.

Twenty-seven-year-old Hussein Shaker from Syria is one of many refugees and migrants looking to fill this gap. After arriving in Germany two years ago, he stumbled upon his first job while looking for furniture online.

HUSSEIN SHAKER: My first job in Germany was in a call center. I found the job through eBay (laughter). It was easy job, just calling people in Egypt and Saudi Arabia and asking them questions.

NICHOLSON: While happy to have work, Shaker, who studied IT in Aleppo, felt his real skills were going to waste. He saw there was a demand for experienced software developers but that refugees like himself had no idea how to apply for jobs in Germany despite having work permits. So he teamed up with a group of German social entrepreneurs and founded Migrant Hire, an online job portal solely for refugees and migrants.

SHAKER: You see they have posted 12 jobs, and they have 106 applicants from our network, yeah.

NICHOLSON: Migrant Hire's CEO, Michael Schweikart, says the site is currently used by 150 employers and about 10,000 applicants. They use a smart algorithm to connect them.

MICHAEL SCHWEIKART: This system automatically sends the candidate a suggestion, then you can apply with a click, and the company sees immediately a list of candidates that applied.

NICHOLSON: The IT consultancy Capgemini has used Migrant Hire to recruit six refugees. Head of HR, Sissy Tongendorff, says tapping into the migrant market not only helps meet their demand for software specialists but also makes for a happier workplace.

SISSY TONGENDORFF: (Through interpreter) There's a feel-good factor in recruiting refugees. By helping these new employees learn German and integrate into the workplace, our staff feel like they're doing something to help overcome this huge humanitarian crisis.

(CROSSTALK)

NICHOLSON: Syrian web developer Bashar Alghazoury also benefits from this feel-good factor, and he doesn't much care whether he's been recruited to hit corporate social responsibility targets or not. Through Migrant Hire, he's landed a permanent contract with another tech company. And with a job, he says he no longer feels like a refugee.

BASHAR ALGHAZOURY: Now I trust myself more because, you know, it's not easy to live as a refugee. And now I don't have this feeling anymore. I have my own job, and I can afford my life.

NICHOLSON: We meet after work in a cafe. The sharply dressed 31-year-old is apartment hunting. He looks like any other millennial trying his luck in Berlin, but unlike his fellow hipsters, Alghazoury still faces discrimination because, he says, of his name.

ALGHAZOURY: I found a really nice flat, but the owner didn't accept because I'm Arabic. It's hard to have a Arabic name here in Germany.

NICHOLSON: Alghazoury says he wants to change his first name from Bashar to Noah. Only with a less Arabic name, he says, will he truly have a chance to integrate. For NPR News, I'm Esme Nicholson in Berlin.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOUND TRIBE SECTOR 9 SONG, "TOKYO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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