Integration Getting a foothold in working life — labour integration in Winterthur

“What matters are the people!” This statement can be applied to practically any situation in life. Even more so when it comes to facilitating entry into and gaining a foothold in the labour market. The City of Winterthur supports people both with and without a migration background in their job search.

Patrick Buschauer Download

We met Patrick Buschauer, head of the department for practical assignments for adults at the Winterthur Labour Integration Office to find out more about their integration work. He talked to us about the office’s work integration programme, the so-called Integration Plan, and how decisive personal contact is when it comes to finding a job. Patrick Buschauer has been working at the Winterthur Labour Integration Office for 18 years. He initially started as a coach and soon began to head several other departments, thus getting to know all the parts that make up the Winterthur Labour Integration Office. His career originally began very differently, namely with a degree in literature in Zurich. In the 1990s, the gave German lessons to Bosnian refugees to finance his studies. This was his first point of contact with the migrant community. He then led courses on education for the Bosnian community at Caritas Lucerne. In his next job at the Cantonal Office for Refugees and Asylum Seekers, he helped people find housing as well as jobs.

The Integration Plan 
The Winterthur Labour Integration Office offers several accredited programmes for the integration of people with a migration background into the job market. As part of these programmes, coaches draw up Integration Plans together with their respective clients. What does such an Integration Plan entail? It lists the jobseeker’s skills and interests while planning the next steps in the job search. This plan also lists whether German courses, vocational courses or additional training will be necessary. Each integration plan is individually custom-tailored and exclusively focused on integration into the labour market. Social integration does not play a role in this context, since the Integration Office deals with social and professional integration separately. 

The goal of the Integration Plan? To help the client find a job or an internship in the private sector as quickly as possible, of course. The plan takes into account each individual’s abilities and interests. In some rare cases, it may be possible to place a person directly. This is why most people start with an internship or work experience in a company. This way, the company can get to know the person, give him or her a chance and support them — and in the best case, the trial leads to a permanent position.

Where are people placed? The most common placement industries are catering, care, building services, cleaning, SMEs or skilled trades such as carpentry or painting. Patrick Buschauer says that the placement rate for migrants is 40%. 

Personal contact is key
“The main task of the Winterthur Labour Integration Office is to establish a connection between the jobseeker and potential employers”, says Patrick Buschauer. He prefers personal contact to phone calls, because it leads to success more quickly. If the coach joins the client when visiting the company, then a trial run gets much more likely. Personal contact is very important and that’s especially noticeable during application coaching. “We send out numerous applications. Often there is no response or even a negative response simply because the person has the wrong name or the wrong background. This only creates frustration. Personal contact with the company, on the other hand, enables us to break down fears and barriers”, says Buschauer. 

Buschauer was himself unemployed for a while. “This was a formative experience for me”, he elaborates. During his time as a coach, he noticed how important it is for most people to have a job in order to feel like they belong to society. This sense of belonging tends to be more pronounced among people with a migration or refugee background. In addition to the challenge of finding a job, there are many additional obstacles, such as having to depend on the authorities, a lack of acceptance, language barriers and too little contact with the local population. Patrick Buschauer finds Valeriana’s social integration strategy especially exciting, because it combines professional and social integration. Valeriana’s employees earn their own income, improve their German skills in language courses and are in constant contact with the local population.

What motivates both of us is “the big and small success stories that happen every day.” Patrick Buschauer’s call to action for an inclusive society is: “Just approach each other. Do it in small ways — in your neighbourhood, in your apartment building, at the sports club.”

Would you like to learn more about integration and migration in Switzerland? Then check out these articles:

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