Best Practice 29

UBINZ – Unterstützung berufliche Integration Neuzugewanderter (Support for vocational integration of new immigrants)

The target group consists primarily of new immigrants and refugees from countries without secure prospects of a permanent residence-permit in Germany and who therefore don´t have access to the usual language courses („Integrationskurse“, “BSK”) provided by the ministry of migration and refugees. The target group’s language skills and professional experience are not sufficient for entering the labour market or for participating in a vocational training. They have already passed a basic language course at an adult education centre (VHS) and already reached an A1-level (CEF) in German. Especially the refugees from Afghanistan who are not supported anymore by the German government since 01/2018 are in need of a substitutional support. It is crucial to understand, that for this target group, no other language acquisition programmes for the CEF levels A2-B2, are available in the Berlin area.

GFBM is familiar with the needs of the specific target group. Many refugees are traumatized by the causes of the flight and the experiences during the flight. The arrival in a new country and the related problems which occur during the integration-process leave many overstrained with the new situation. There is indeed the need for professional support. (Therefore, social education specialists are additionally supporting the language instructors of the project throughout its duration.)

Another challenge for the participants of the training-programme consists in their accommodation situation. The majority of them is accommodated in residential homes, they have to share rooms with strangers of different cultures, language, age and controversial political points of views. There is a lack of privacy, the daily structure of a person is oriented on the structure of all the persons living in together in one shelter. This makes it difficult for participants to learn and prepare for their language course and even to get sufficient sleep at night. This requires extra support by social workers who are additionally employed in UBINZ.

Generally, GFBM understands the acquisition of language as an intercultural education mandate. The language acquisition process is based on the education experiences and previously acquired language skills of the participants, who are empowered to identify and access consecutive vocational or educational programmes. This is facilitated by a recourse on their previous working/educational experiences which are supposed to be compared and reflected by the participants in order to adjust and settle in to the new learning-context.

The participants of UBINZ come from 35 different countries (so far). 15
participants are stateless or have undetermined citizenships. Apart from
Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Egypt, also nationals from Albania and Turkmenia are
represented in the programme with more than 5 participants. The most part of
the participants live in Germany with an authorisation
for residence for asylum applicants.

The average age of the participants is 27, 8 years. This does not differ for male and female participants and is therefore not portrayed separately.


Their educational background differs widely: From participants with only a few years of schooling or no schooling at all to participants with an academic background and even with a PhD. Some participants have had a career in their countries of origin and many years of working experience in different fields. Whatsoever, as the age structure above suggests, the typical participant has left his/her home country at an age between 18 and 25 and has had no opportunity to complete a vocational or academic education in his/her country of origin. Apart from that, the vocational training in most of these countries is not as formalized as in Germany. Therefore, the main target of the vast majority of these participants is to access a vocational training and with it, a formalized degree, necessary for most vocations in the service-, trading- and crafts-sector in Germany. 

UBINZ has been developed by the GFBM as a supportive programme for young immigrants and refugees living in Berlin, whose access to the labour and educational market is limited by their insufficient language skills. The main focus consists in improving their everyday communications skills and especially the vocational communications skills.

During the 500h vocational language course, participants improve their lexical knowledge for professional contexts, their phonetic and grammatical skills and thus, their ability to communicate in a professional environment.

In addition to job-related language training, the program also includes career-oriented elements. If a vocational training is not yet possible after completing a course, it is also possible to aim for transitions to -low threshold- company entry qualification (EQ). Likewise, following the local general guidelines, further qualification is possible even if the achieved language level B1 (CER) for the desired professional goal is insufficient.

Vocational language courses with the target levels A2, B1 or also B2 (GER) were offered at the GFBM gGmbH when the programme started in 2016. Each project has 500 units, of which 400 units are intended for work-based language teaching and 100 for an internship. Unless the refugees have a current (less than 3 months old) language certificate , language proficiency testing takes place prior to the start of the course in order to classify the participants according to their language skills and to adequately train the existing levels.  Internship are completed by the participants at the end of the course.

Contents of the consultation prior to the course:

The support is divided into a language assessment by the language instructors and qualification-assessment by job coaches and social workers. It is an integral part of the project, the support covers the entire duration of the course, and it is carried out according to the specific situation of the participant. Target group-specific support tools are, prior to entering the project, assessment of the language level and the learning prerequisites for an optimal entry into a course. If required, a more differentiated determination of the language competence takes place if there are doubts about the language level in case it has been certified by prior visited language schools.

Social pedagogic support:

At the beginning and during the UBINZ-programme, the support consists in a coaching which focuses on the learning process, learning advice, career path planning, advice on follow-up measures, advice and support in finding an internship, entry into EQ / vocational-training or the labour market. Special emphasis is put on the preparation and support of the internships. During the internship, the companies are regularly visited by the Job coaches or are available to the company on an ad hoc basis.

The social pedagogic support also includes support in private matters if they are impeding the learning progress (for example financial problems, domestic problems, difficulty in finding an apartment on an already scarce housing market). Referring the participants to external consulting services (such as for example debt counselling or therapeutic counselling) is in most of these cases necessary and explicitly welcome.

Experience has shown that among the refugees there are also many persons with traumas experienced before or during their flight. In these cases, we refer to specialized advice centres or therapeutic facilities. It is crucial for the social workers to determine, whether the learning success of a traumatized participant can be ensured, or whether counselling is more of a priority in the current situation.

Pedagogical approach:

Since neither the immigrants and refugees, nor the companies who are eager to hire immigrants have a realistic mutual perception of their needs and particularities, numerous players in the vocational training require a complex adaption.

On the one hand, immigrants and refugees usually do not have a realistic perception of the daily professional routines and they are unaware of the education and training pathways in Germany. On the other hand, there is a lack of experience by the companies in dealing with different registers and levels of language, or by adapting their particular register to the level of a non-native speaker. There are furthermore intercultural issues related to work ethics, perception of hierarchy, values (to name just a few) which may cause intercultural misunderstandings and even conflicts. It is important to foster understanding both in the companies and in the immigrants that this is a long term mutual learning-process. Furthermore, the necessity and acceptance of a professional reorientation for most of the immigrants is crucial for the integration process into the new labour market.

All of the above mentioned issues need to be addressed in a vocational language course. Therefore, a target-group-specific vocabulary is emphasized; as participants not only need to deal with colleagues, but also with public authorities, laws and provisions related to the labour market.

This aim also corresponds with the activity oriented approach by Hans-Eberhard Piepho (1974), which emphasizes the importance of authenticity in the classroom-communication: Learners should be enabled to speak for themselves and to realize authentic speaking intentions. 

The course furthermore focuses on conveying technical terms in those fields which are important to the learner’s environment.

Course structure:

A minimum number of 18 participants per course is required. The courses are divided into 5 modules of 100 units each, of which the 5th module is intended for the internship:

Module 1 / 100 units: German for the everyday life and work

The already existing language skills acquired in the previous basic courses at the VHS will be refreshed, solidified and deepened and supplemented with professional language skills. Participants acquire competences in the fields of general and vocational language (ex.: naming options, understanding behavioral rules and safety regulations, making calls, talking about ones education).


Module 2/100 units: German on the job

Participants get increasingly familiar with professional vocabulary and basic technical terms from typical occupational fields, talking about different occupations and areas of activity, about their competences and professional inclinations, and about vocational training in Berlin. Participants acquire competences in the field of job-related speech acts (ex.: talking about career paths or perspectives, talking about strengths and weaknesses in a professional context, writing and understanding letters). Use of media for learning support, especially PC use.


Module 3/100 units and Module 4/100 units are divided into two subject areas

a) German at work (50 units each) and b) Career options (50 units each)

The strengthening and deepening of professional language skills is continued in part a). Knowledge about manners and customs in a professional context are also taught. In part b) the participants deal with more specific topics of occupational activity, such as the VET system, rights and duties in the workplace, employment, the social security system, labour law aspects of employment. The participants also learn how to write applications on the PC. Linguistic education can be supplemented by appropriate field trips to companies or institutions of vocational education (such as the Vocational Information Center) or by the development of missing educational competences, for example in the field of mathematics. At the end of the module, an internal exam according to the language level is carried out.


Module 5/100 units

Internship: The four-week internships serve to deepen what has been learned in the course in a company context. It also helps to understand business processes as well as establishing contacts with the training / employment world. The internships are connected to the language modules and can be realized companies or alternatively as a charitable work or in similar occupations. The job coaches support the participants in their search for a company and accompany them if needed. Interns receive a certificate from the company and not only a certificate of attendance. In those cases in which participants are denied an internship by the Immigration Office, the GFBM offers an internship in the GFBM’s own occupational fields.

The implementation of the modules is carried out in a target group-appropriate manner. Possible heterogeneity in terms of learning ability and pace is addresses with increased group division and team teaching. Adequate, interesting course implementation with frequent method changes and inclusion of different media is one of the quality standards, which applies to all language acquisition programmes at GFBM.

The linguistic goal is the acquisition of at least one higher language-level according to CER based on the language level at the start of the course. If the appropriate degree of language competence is attained after the course, participation in the DTZ exam or the telc exam B1/2 is possible for the participants. Otherwise, an internal test is carried out, which is based on the scale and the indicators of telc.

As the GFBM previously gained experience in carrying out language courses with the same target group, the programme is designed as an afternoon-course. We take into account that many of the refugees are still housed in shelters and are also being fed there. The local meal times must be considered at the beginning and end of the lesson. Furthermore, many refugees have to take numerous appointments at the Immigration Office per month and are busy with the search for an apartment. This makes afternoon courses more attractive for the target group.

Number of

The first
UBINZ course started in June 2016 with 20 participants and ended with 26
participants who were admitted during the first two months of the course. In
November 2016, the peak was reached with almost 170 participants admitted into
several different courses and levels.

the number of participants developed in a relatively constant manner. The
demand remained stable throughout the project, even though parts of the target
group were temporarily admitted as participants in the DeuFöV (BSK) vocational
language courses.


In December
2017, 74 participants were taught in three different UBINZ courses. On average,
there were 25 participants in each course. From 01.06.2016 to 31.12.2017 there
were 420 participants in UBINZ. 169 participants were assigned to courses with
the target level A2, 185 to the target level B1 and 66 to the target level B2.


the first project-phase until December 2017, a total of 649 consultations with language
assessments led to 420 admissions, 52 participants (12%) were women.

During the
first project-phase until December 2017, 18 courses started with a total of 324
places (18 per course). 420 participants were inscribed in the courses. This
surplus can be explained by some participants quitting the course unexpectedly
for different reasons and newcomers inscribed as a replacement in order to
leave no void places.

In 2018,
four courses have successfully started in the second project-phase for the levels
A2, B1 (two courses) and B2 with 18 places in each course. UBINZ continues to
be demanded by the target group despite the fact that there are a fewer
refugees arriving in Germany compared to the previous two years. On the whole,
9 courses are planned for the first semester of 2018 with a flexibility for the
starting dates and language target-levels depending on the demand.


Unfortunately, the goal of starting a pure women’s course could not be realized despite
intensive advertising and networking with our network partners: the
dormitories, the learning-shops and others. There were not enough participants
with the same language-target-level.

Exam results 

The participants with the language-target-level A2 passed an internal examination and received the results with a certificate. 113 participants were examined, of which 83 passed. 101 participants with the target level B1 passed the DTZ exam, of which 89 passed. Courses with the target level B2 are followed by the Telc exam. 38 participants took part in the Telc-B2 exam, of which 16 passed, which puts UBINZ above the nationwide top quota for the integration courses (DTZ) and the job-related language courses according to DeuFöV (telc B2).


the internships, especially SMEs were very open to refugees. A great
willingness to accept interns was shown especially to by those who have a
migration background of their own. Large companies and public institutions
often need more lead time and may not be able to offer a 4 week internship.
Participants without an internship-permit by the Immigration Office or
participants with health restrictions (for example due to experiences while
during the flight) or with other personal problems were placed in workshops at
our partner institutions (companies in the social service sector with workshops
for construction, woodworks, car workshops, youth clubs, etc.).


The SMEs
were more willing to submit the necessary applications for work or work permits
at the Immigration Office. The staff of the GFBM supported them in this matter.
In addition, some SMEs even offered individualized support for the
participants. They arranged trainings or individualized incorporation by their
staff for the participants, taking into account their previous careers and work

Due to the efforts made by the social workers, many interruptions of internship-contracts could be avoided. Misunderstandings that arose due to linguistic or intercultural misunderstandings could

mostly be resolved by guided conversations and mediation. On the one hand, participants were supported in their resilience, on the other hand, also the companies were being addressed in order to make them understand the situation and needs of the refugees a little more. As part of the follow-up, the social workers ensured a transition for the participants and advised the companies into further programs such as AbH (vocational training assistance) in order to secure the integration chains. It was essential that the counseling and consultation was available even after the usual working hours (after 17:00 clock).

The participants worked together with the educational staff to prepare tailor-made applications for the respective working or training objective and the company.

The internships had three main functions:

  • deepen the acquired language skills through practice in the professional environment
  • professional orientation – reconsidering of the career plans and gaining practical experience
  • potential “gluing effect” – the intern turns into an employee or starts his/her vocational training at the company

In addition, the internship is also an integral part of the integration-process both for the refugees and on for the companies. The refugees no longer prevail in the “safe space” of the classroom but are part of the labor and training market. Through their good work, they themselves become the best ambassadors of intercultural understanding and, conversely, get to know and understand the German job market in a motivating environment that recognizes their achievements.

Follow up: Work, training and further qualification

The goal, integration into work and vocational training, has so far been achieved for 40 participants. 10 participants could continue their education in schools and at universities. 71 participants were given further qualifications; these include above all language courses and measures in connection with vocational orientation and testing such as BOF (vocational orientation
for refugees) or ESF-supported combined measures. The unknown results of asylum
procedures makes it difficult for participants to start with their vocational
trainings and even job-contracts. It furthermore restricts opportunities for
further education significantly.

their difficult situation, almost 37% of the participants (of the total number
of participants) found professional prospects and hookups to their next career
step. This success is mainly due to the consistent job-related language support
in the classroom and its practical implementation during the internship.

Aspects of inclusion and sustainability in UBINZ

Sustainable development: The participants are informed about possible activities and occupations

in the environmental field. In addition, language lessons include appropriate lessons or topics that deal with sustainability and environmental issues, such as: conservation of resources, waste separation, etc. The project is environmentally neutral, negative environmental effects are excluded.

Gender equality: The project is equally open for both sexes. It aims at giving women and men equal access to the labor market and social insurance benefits. Language and vocational lessons are adjusted to gender-specific life situations of the target group and contribute to overcoming gender stereotypes. This is in line with the ESF’s gender equality objective of achieving economic independence for women and men.

Equal opportunities and non-discrimination: The project specifically enhances the language skills and professional orientation of the participants in order to give them access to the German training and employment market. Thus, potentials and talents of migrants and refugees are developed, social exclusion avoided and non-discrimination achieved through improved employability.

 Language Access

 Access to the labour market



☒ Language Training

☒ Language Assessment

☒ Intercultural communication

☒ Others: Internships

Germany, Berlin

Name: Olaf Melchior

Organisation: GFBM – Gemeinnützige Gesellschaft für berufsbildende Maßnahmen mbH

Telephone: 0049-30-56821715