From civil war to the laboratory
Like many employers in the public and private sector, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) as a scientific institution also makes a contribution towards the integration of people from the civil war regions of the Middle East who are seeking refuge in Germany. The institute is being presented in December 2016 at the conference of the "Companies Integrating Refugees" network as an example of "best practice" for the conception and execution of successful operational measures for the integration and professional qualification of refugees. "Our two-part concept for getting refugees fit for the German employment market in line with their previous qualifications in the field of science has proven its worth," says BfR Vice-President Professor Dr. Reiner Wittkowski. "Our goal is to take on qualified scientists who have fled their home countries and prepare them for scientific work in the German employment market". The BfR is a member of the "Companies Integrating Refugees" network in which chiefly medium-sized enterprises have come together to exchange experiences in their efforts to integrate refugees into the world of employment.
The BfR integration concept is built on two pillars. It consists initially of a three-month internship during which the participants acquire basic knowledge of the work of the BfR laboratories. During this period, the BfR finances either further professional training, if the language prerequisites have been met, or a language course if they have not. Once the internship has been successfully completed, the BfR signs a temporary employment contract with the graduates so that they can apply their acquired skills and knowledge in a real, practical work situation, thus improving their chances in the German job market.
The BfR is currently qualifying five young scientists from the crisis regions of Syria and Afghanistan in its various work areas. They are doing or have completed internships in the work areas of chemical analysis of consumer products and materials that come in contact with foods, and the toxicological assessment of food ingredients. Four of them have already completed their internship and have been given a temporary employment contract for 6 and 12 months respectively in order to convert what they have learnt into scientific practice.