Refugee Education

Waiting Game

Refugees studying engineering at one of about 60 welcoming classes in Berlin's vocational schools.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany needs 1.7 million non-academic specialists with technical training over the next 15 years, yet tens of thousands of apprenticeships remain unfilled.

  • Facts


    • Of the 425,035 refugees who reached Germany by November and have applied for asylum, 112,461 are children under 16 years of age.
    • Many students drop out of the technical training classes because they need to make money now, depriving Germany of a vast amount of potential.
    • There are about 60 welcome classes with more than 600 students in Berlin’s 28 vocational schools with another further 30 classes planned.
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Youssef bends over a worksheet and sighs, “I did that for a year already. Instead of ‘I offer the friend the tea,’ it is ‘I offer it to him.’ ”

The dark blond Syrian sits in the third row of the advanced welcome class on the third floor of the vocational high school center of automotive engineering in the Charlottenburg area of Berlin. Frustrated by the grammar exercises, the young man from a small city near Damascus wrinkles his face. He knows the answers. In Syria, he was in the eleventh grade. He and his mother have lived here for a year and eight months at the home of an aunt, who has lived in Berlin for decades.

The vocational high school (OSZ) in Charlottenburg is Youssef’s fourth school in Germany. His teacher recognizes he is under-challenged and impatient. “I will speak with the principal,” promised Matthias Ziervogel. “Maybe you won’t be here much longer.” A few weeks ago, Youssef’s Syrian certificates were recognized as an intermediate level education. Perhaps he can move into a high school class, but that prospect remains unclear. Youssef doesn’t know what would be better: Earn a diploma or learn mechatronics?

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