Here at last – thanks to Bayer

After nearly six months in flight, Feras has finally arrived in Germany, where he hopes to find a better future.


Leading a perfectly normal life without fear of terror and war is something that is impossible for many refugees. Thanks to support from Bayer, Feras Alsayrawan from Syria will soon be able to start an apprenticeship and a new life in Germany.

Monday afternoon, 4:00 p.m. Time for the participants on the Bayer Starthilfe program to go home. Most of them are going to soccer training, to meet up with friends or for some retail therapy ... but Feras still has one important item on his to-do list: learn German. The ambitious young man has a major goal in his sights. He wants to master the new language as quickly as possible so that he can do an apprenticeship at Bayer. “I want to stand on my own two feet and take the same route as all the other young people here,” says the 25-year-old from Syria. “Bayer is a great piece of good fortune for me, because I was already involved in chemistry in my home city Damascus.”


refugees are prepared for their working lives each year by Bayer.

Feras has suffered some hardships to get a new start in life, away from the threat of war there. He left his parents, siblings, wife and friends behind. He spent six months on a crazy journey through Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary and Austria, finally arriving in Germany in early October 2014. Then came several months more switching between refugee accommodations in Dortmund, Frankfurt, Unna, Hemer and Bad Salzuflen. Uncertainty was his constant companion.

But Feras made good use of this difficult time, his sights firmly fixed on his goal. He used an app on his cell phone to teach himself some basic words and sentences in German – and took every opportunity to talk to other people in the new language. His hard work paid off once he finally got a place on an integration course in Cologne, and he had no difficulty passing the language test at the end of it. But what next?

Creating career prospects

Since October 2015, Bayer has been offering refugees aged between 18 and 26 a chance to take part in a four-month foundation course at its site in Leverkusen

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The course, enrolling roughly 20 participants four times a year, is Bayer's way of helping young refugees to improve their German language skills to a level at which they will have a realistic chance on the labor market. The course also includes initial career guidance, supplemented by a three-week practical internship at the Chempark in Leverkusen.

The concept is proving successful. 90 refugees have already completed the course, and 12 of them have also qualified for the Starthilfe program at Bayer that since August 2016 has been preparing them to train in an industrial profession. Five more refugees have already been accepted for the mid-2017 intake of the Starthilfe program in Leverkusen and Wuppertal, where it is also running from this year. The application procedure is still ongoing in Wuppertal.

Interested young people can contact by e-mail. A similar course is on offer at the Berlin site (contact:

“During an interview at the Chamber of Industry and Commerce I discovered that Bayer offers special foundation courses for refugees. I knew at once that this was what I wanted to do,” Feras recalls. That meant four more months of intensive German lessons to bring him to a level that would give him a chance on the employment market. Bayer offers young people who have fled their home countries not only grammar and vocabulary lessons – they are also able to visit laboratories, workshops and pilot plants and get a taste of what the company does and the careers it offers. Feras’s enthusiasm knew no bounds.

„Bei den 16 geflüchteten Jugendlichen, die das Starthilfe-Programm derzeit absolvieren, erleben wir ein außergewöhnliches Maß an Ehrgeiz und Engagement sowie einen großen Willen, sich in die neue Kultur zu integrieren. Und das trotz Sprachbarrieren und den teilweise sehr belastenden persönlichen Hintergründen. Die Arbeit mit ihnen ist eine Herausforderung, bietet aber auch zahlreiche bereichernde Erfahrungen und Eindrücke. Immer wieder erinnern sie daran, wie schön es ist, in Frieden und Freiheit leben zu dürfen.“ Monica Böcker, Ausbilderin für das Starthilfe-Programm von Bayer

The 12 young refugees who are currently enrolled in the Starthilfe program are exceptionally ambitious and dedicated and have a tremendous will to integrate into the new culture.

And his dream of getting a training place in the company as a chemistry lab technician has now come true. Thanks to his good performance in the foundation course and the Starthilfe program he will be starting an apprenticeship at Bayer in the summer to become a chemical lab technician. The colleagues he worked with during an internship within the company were impressed by his outgoing personality and great interest in their work.

4 questions for Dr. Hartmut Klusik, the Bayer Management Board member responsible for human resources

“We will be continuing our involvement”

Mr. Klusik, why did Bayer decide to support the integration of refugees into the labor market?
Because we feel it is important to support people who have fled to Germany and who want to build a new life here. To do this, they first need to have a very good idea of the qualifications that they require. That's the reason why we started our career foundation courses. By helping them to learn the language and showing them what happens in the occupational setting we can provide participants with practical assistance in integrating into the labor market and thus into German society.

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What exactly does the foundation course contain?
A sound knowledge of German is vital for refugees' job prospects. The purpose of this course is therefore to improve participants’ language skills to the point at which they can be awarded a B2 certificate. This is the level they need to achieve before they can start an apprenticeship. The course also provides some initial career guidance, supplemented by a three-week practical internship at the Chempark in Leverkusen. Throughout the course the participants are supported by an educational social worker.

And what happens then?
Successful participants can apply for the regular pre-training Starthilfe program run by Bayer, which from now on will reserve a number of places for refugees wishing to receive vocational training. The program has been running successfully for nearly 30 years now, and provides young adults with intensive preparation for a subsequent apprenticeship in scientific and technical occupations. Participating refugees are given their first vocational college lessons and training in applying for employment.

Bayer has been involved in refugee aid for over a year. What’s your overall impression so far?
A positive one! We were one of the first industrial companies in Germany to launch various activities to help refugees back in fall 2015. The various assistance programs, initially created as a very spontaneous response to the emerging refugee crisis, have now become a major element of Bayer’s corporate social responsibility. We are delighted with the success we have achieved and it goes without saying that we will be continuing our involvement. I would like to take this opportunity of thanking all the employees, local residents and partner companies who have taken part in numerous projects for their hard work.

Is he finding it difficult to make a completely new start in a foreign country? “No,” Feras says, “because in Germany I have a chance to live a better life. Bayer has opened up a perspective for me here. And if I do well, then maybe I can work in the company. I’m doing things step by step. A little bit further every day.”

Refugee aid at Bayer

Careers guidance for young refugees, support for employees who volunteer and financial support for selected projects in the neighborhood of company sites: A lot of things have happened at Bayer since refugee aid started in October 2015. Here are a few examples:

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• Bayer employees who work as volunteers in local projects to help refugees are also able to receive up to eight days of paid leave from work as an incentive to get involved. By Dec. 31, 2016, some 90 Bayer employees from all over Germany had taken advantage of the offer and participated in 190 refugee-aid activities comprising a total of 2,000 hours or 250 working days.

• Bayer employees and people living in the neighborhood of company sites can apply to the Bayer Cares Foundation for financial support for local projects to help refugees up to a total of EUR 5,000.

• Similarly to the projects at the Leverkusen site, there are also opportunities in Bergkamen and Berlin for young refugees to receive career guidance and training. These projects are enabling Bayer to prepare some 150 refugees annually to start their working lives.

• Since May 2016 the Volkshochschule Leverkusen (adult education institute) has been screening films at the initiative of Bayer Arts & Culture for people who have come to Germany from other countries. These films use cultural education to promote integration.

• Bayer is also aiming to arouse refugee children’s interest in science with the “Science4Life” academy in Berlin and experimental courses at “Baylab Health” in Wuppertal.

• The Bayer Athletic Clubs are involved in a number of activities such as special sports programs and donations in kind for refugees in their immediate neighborhood.

• Bayer has also been an active member of “Wir zusammen,” an integration initiative of the German business community, since February 2016. You can read more about this initiative at