Ukrainians on the labor market: a new career after fleeing

Status: 04/28/2022 08:11 a.m

Many Ukrainian refugees are currently starting their first jobs in Germany. There are enough vacancies. But starting over is not that easy.

Valentyna Kovtun puts on a white cap, gloves, a white coat and a face mask and stands at the line to pack the pre-baked rolls in plastic bags into boxes. A few weeks ago she fled from Kyiv here to Bocholt. She managed a restaurant in the Ukrainian capital. Now she is in Germany with her two children, aged seven and nine, her sister and her mother. She is just happy that she can work again. She found this job at the Sinnack bakery.

Housing, bank accounts, administrative procedures

The search wasn’t that easy for her. Without German, says Valentyna Kovtun, it is very difficult. Here at Sinnack you just have to work. “In addition, there are many people here who help you with the language, Poles and Russian-speaking people who help you, for which I am very grateful. You are always accommodating, and even with gestures you can often understand what is meant. “

Holger Wüpping is the boss at the baked goods manufacturer Sinnack. In addition to Valentyna Kovtun, he has hired eight other refugees. For him it was important to do something about the suffering in Ukraine and to be able to help, as he says. New jobs for refugees alone were not enough.

Has already hired nine people from Ukraine: Sinnack boss Holger Wüpping

Image: Sinnack Baking Specialties GmbH & Co. KG

“It wasn’t easy at all, and the company needs a lot of volunteers. Above all, there is a lack of living space, which you have to create first,” says Wüpping. They had previously registered the new employees with the authorities, set up bank accounts for them and laid the foundations for their new lives.

Job exchange for people from Ukraine

But how do refugees find a suitable job? One possibility is the portal, through which Valentyna Kovtun found her new job. It was founded in mid-March by two entrepreneurs from North Rhine-Westphalia on a voluntary basis. The job exchange offers advertisements in English and Ukrainian specifically for refugees from the war zone.

According to founder Marcus Diekmann, around 20,000 jobs have already been offered by around 10,000 companies and over 2000 jobs have been brokered. Diekmann himself has spoken to many Ukrainians and knows how important it is for many to become independent and earn money as quickly as possible. And they could at least temporarily solve part of the skilled labor problem.

Marcus Diekmann’s job exchange has already provided many jobs.

Image: Simon Thon

Solution for the skills shortage? is looking for assistants in cleaning, gastronomy or hospitals, software developers, purchasing managers or technical engineers for wind turbines – a reflection of the shortage of skilled workers. According to the Institute for Labor and Occupational Research (IAB), there are currently 1.69 million vacancies in Germany, a new high in the labor market.

According to the IAB, many of the incoming refugees, most of whom are women, have the qualifications with which they could theoretically fill the gaps in companies. The majority are university graduates or have learned technical or medical professions. There are also many saleswomen among them – or the refugees previously worked in other service jobs. And some worked as unskilled workers.

18 new bus drivers

At Vias Bus GmbH in Düren, 18 refugees from the Ukraine are currently studying for a bus and car driver’s license. They come from Kyiv, Odessa, Mariupol and Kharkiv. Home is destroyed; here they build a new life for themselves. Four hours of language courses and four hours of on-the-job training every day: occupational safety, briefings on deadlines and, of course, traffic and driving lessons.

There were 20 vacancies in the company. Bus drivers are in short supply, says Managing Director Jan-Oliver Mau. Now they can help the refugees and at the same time fill their vacancies. Surprisingly, many men have come forward. “We also learned something new: Ukrainians are allowed to leave the country despite being conscripted if they either have at least three children or one person in the family who needs care,” says Mau.

The driving school course with refugees from the Ukraine at Vias Bus in Düren.

Image: VIAS Bus GmbH

“You are highly motivated”

What really surprised the managing director: After only five days, all Ukrainians had the necessary temporary work permits from the city of Düren. “It was really sensational,” says Mau. Now all Ukrainians in training at Vias Bus GmbH receive the standard wage for job starters – and that is having an effect. “They are highly motivated. They want to learn, they want to work and we have the impression that they want to be part of society.” At the end of May, the first of them will be able to drive themselves on the bus routes.

The only question is: how long will they stay in Germany? It is clear that most of the refugees want to return to their home country as soon as possible. Nobody knows how long that could take. That’s why large bakers Sinnack are initially offering short-term contracts, limited to six months. For Managing Director Wüpping, however, one thing is clear: Anyone who wants to can also stay long-term – and be trained in the company.

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