How can refugees who had to break off their studies or whose degree is not recognised in Germany manage to get a career start here? C3L's new "Change of Course" project provides support in several ways.
Those who flee from violence, war, terror and involuntarily break off their education often are hardly able to prepare for their arrival in the new country. This also concerns the start in the local educational system or on the local job market. Language barriers and cultural insecurities have to be overcome, there may be no proof of previous experience or the foreign educational qualification is not recognised.
The new project "Change of Course" (in German: “Kurswechsel”) at the University of Oldenburg aims to help refugees start a career in the region. The Center for Lifelong Learning (C3L) offers individual counselling, workshops and an online platform with specially developed learning materials. Among other things, the project team supports the participants in reflecting on their own competencies and presenting them in a portfolio. In addition, it accompanies a three-month internship from the application to the follow-up work.
The two-year project with a total volume of 500,000 euros is funded by the European Social Fund and the Ministry of Science and Culture of Lower Saxony (MWK). Head of the "Change of Course" project is C3L's executive director Prof. Dr. Olaf Zawacki-Richter, expert in knowledge transfer and learning with new technologies.
"Nowadays, educational pathways are often not straightforward, but are characterised by transitions and reorientation. Dropping out of university is part of this reality," says Zawacki-Richter. At the same time, the number of those who have dropped out of university abruptly abroad and now live in Germany is growing steadily. "Just as is the case with local drop-outs, most of them bring along diverse and important skills that are very important in professional life," adds the education expert. Nevertheless, according to the Federal Government, a good quarter of the refugees in Germany work under their qualifications.
With its individual and digital support services, "Change of Course" is intended to help refugees who have abandoned their studies as well as university graduates among them who have no prospect of having their degree recognised. People who have dropped out of their studies in this country could benefit from the creation of a portfolio as well.
To introduce the German training and labour market, the application process and financing possibilities to the participants from abroad, the project team will provide learning games and short videos via the project's own digital learning platform will in addition use learning games and short videos. In monthly workshops, the participants will get a deeper understanding of topics such as application and career entry, labour law basics or personal development.
The "Change of Course" project builds on the expertise of the C3L, whose experts have long been on the forefront of recognising and crediting participants’ competences and previous achievements in academic continuing education. For years, employees in the university’s own "Award of Credit Project" have been developing and testing procedures for recording and crediting competences acquired both professionally and informally - for example, in the context of "Portfolios for Refugees" from 2016 to 2019.
In this project, the “Award of Credit” team (in German: “Kompetenzbereich Anrechnung”) has already created 132 portfolios and arranged more than 300 consulting appointments. Approximately two thirds of the participants had fled Syria, while Iran and Iraq each accounted for almost ten percent. One fifth of the refugees had started a course of study in their respective countries of origin, but had not been able to complete it due to the political situation. A somewhat larger group brought a Bachelor's degree with them, but were unable to follow on from this in Germany. "The majority had to start a new course of education in Germany," says project staff member Britta Klages, who is now also part of the new project. Of the portfolio participants, a third are aiming to study in Germany, but the majority are aiming to enter the job market.
This is where the new "Change of Course" project comes in, says Klages. In order to bring the new participants a step closer to this goal, for example with suitable internships, the project team is cooperating with the educational counselling centres in Oldenburg and Cloppenburg, the Catholic Adult Education (KEB) and the pro:connect association. The "Change of Course" online platform, flanked by individual counselling and workshops, is expected to be launched in autumn. Those interested can already contact Britta Klages and her colleague Lea Sophie Mustafa.