Empower Refugees

New prospects in the wind power sector

Climate change, the refugee crisis, the shortage of skilled workers. All over Germany, people are complaining, speculating and debating. How can these complex challenges be dealt with? In which ways do they overlap? Two years ago, the “FEREN” network was founded to find solutions to these questions. (The German acronym “FEREN” stands for “Fachkräftesicherung ERneuerbare ENergien”, or “Securing skilled personnel for the renewable energy sector”). This led to the development of the “Empower Refugees” project, which is aimed at supporting the integration of immigrants by creating job prospects for them in the wind power sector, with the help of retraining courses. At the same time, the project promotes the development of the wind power sector and contributes towards the expansion of renewable energies.

The project was set up by the Kraftwerksschule e.V. (KWS) (the power plant training centre) in Essen in collaboration with psm Nature Power Service & Management GmbH & Co. KG in Erkelenz. Empower Refugees started in March 2018 with twelve participants at the KWS and is the only project of this type that exists in the renewable energy sector in Germany. It creates a link between the shortage of skilled workers, on the one hand, and the issue of integrating refugees, on the other, in that it promotes employment in the wind power sector and meets the increased demand for labour. In order to achieve this goal, the KWS in Essen takes over the retraining of the refugees. The courses are aimed at refugees who already have some previous technical experience. The Essen job centre is financing the initiative.

Engine for progress:

  • Ensures the provision of skilled workers for the renewable energy sector
  • Removes potential barriers to the expansion of wind power
  • Integration of refugees

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Reducing the shortage of skilled workers

The initiative basically consists of two parts. In the first five months, essential requirements are tested and a basis is created which serves as a foundation for the subsequent retraining course. The focus of this first part of the course is on areas such as language, fitness, an ability to work at heights, and occupational safety, and it ends with a work placement. The sixteen-month-long retraining course includes both theoretical modules, which the participants attend at the KWS, and practical components, which take place at one of the companies taking part in the project. In order to ensure that the retraining course is as practical as possible for the students, psm is building its own training facility on behalf of KWS at the training provider’s premises in Essen.

At the end of the retraining course, the students take a final examination set by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK). If they pass this exam, they receive a certificate as an industrial electrician specialised in industrial engineering and can be employed in the wind power sector as wind turbine service technicians. The companies participating in the project have guaranteed in advance that they are ready to take the course participants on as employees.

Retraining courses as an engine for integration and progress

The retraining is not only a specialised training course but also an initiative aimed at integration. The subject of “refugees” has been on everyone’s lips since 2015. How should the high number of refugees be dealt with? How can they be integrated into society? The Empower Refugees project makes an important contribution in this respect, by offering refugees the prospect of being included in the job market and thus enabling them to gain a foothold in society more easily. The participants are provided with the necessary language skills and receive support from social workers. The latter is particularly important since nearly all the participants find themselves in a distressing situation in their personal lives.