Joining Kodiko: a non-profit to support refugees in their professional integration.

The first “refugee-employee” training program connects refugees with French professionals to help them integrate into the French workplace.

Kodiko is an NGO created in 2016 to help refugees in their professional integration and job search, by putting them in contact with employees in companies. It has been 6 years of activities with the mission to support people who have obtained refugee status or subsidiary protection towards employment. In these 6 years, Kodiko has already followed up on the economic integration of more than 1150 refugees.

By now they have achieved great results: 70% of the refugees accompanied had a professional opportunity 6 months after the start of the program and 86% of employees that participated in the program would be ready to repeat the experience and recommit to helping refugees.

How does it work? In order to participate in Kodiko’s program, the refugee must have obtained their legal protection/refugee status, be able to communicate in French (master at least the basics in French, which is equivalent to the beginner’s level – A2 as defined by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages), and have previous work experience in their native countries.

Then the association connects the refugee with a suitable mentor, that, when possible, works in the refugee’s chosen profession.  The mentor, a French professional, is a volunteer that receives training from the association before becoming a coach and being partnered up with a refugee. This duo, “refugee-employee”, whom Kodiko calls “binome”, have regular meetings for 5 months.

In these meetings, which normally happen in the volunteer’s workplace, the refugee is coached about the work culture and the competitive French labor market. The volunteers also help their partners with everything from investigating the possibility of changing carriers, to penning their CVs and cover letters or even helping them to pick the appropriate clothes for a job interview.

Kodiko has been active in Rennes since May 2021. Realizing the importance of Kodiko’s work, Broadpeak whose headquarters are in Cesson-Sévigné, in the Rennes metropolitan region, participated in the group in 2022.

Augustin Vaucelle, Cockpit manager; Lucie Jacquelin, R&D Engineer; Ludovic Havet, Techops Engineer, Joseph Verriere, Customer Program Manager; were the broadpeakers that participated in this year’s edition. They shared with us their experience with Kodiko and the refugee that they guided toward a professional insertion in France.

How was the training that Kodiko offered at the beginning? 

Augustin Vaucelle: Very good training and support – The training was interesting, and we learned what are the theoretical situations of our kodiko partner. Also, new tools have been released for our class, it was easy to use.

Lucie Jacquelin:  Indeed the training and support were very relevant. We had an optional class to learn/understand the different situations we could face. We also had access to a lot of resources (information about the law, refugees’ rights, …) and slides that were used by Kodiko to train our partners. This was very helpful.

Ludovic Havet: It was great, we had an attorney in civil rights who gave us a lot of info on refugees. Then the organization with meetings, tools, and so on. The monthly discussion between volunteers was useful, not only at the beginning but during the whole course of the activity.

Joseph Verriere: The training was very interesting and useful as it corresponds to topics, we are not used to seeing. It was done by a legal who gave us a global overview of the different statuses of migrants and their rights in France.

How were the meetings with your partner (binôme)? 

Augustin Vaucelle: Working sessions with my partner was all about trying to detect what he wanted to do, what he could do, and how I could help him. Additionally, we had a meeting with a third person in order to answer his questions on specific professional topics and clarify what he wanted to do.

Lucie Jacquelin: When my partner came to Broadpeak, we usually started by rereading the slides of the last training session he got with Kodiko. The goal was to check he understood the training and give him more details if needed. Then we worked on different subjects: CV, and motivation letter, but our meetings always ended with chatting and sharing about our personal experiences.

Ludovic Havet: It was a bit about getting to know each other and then trying to find what kind of work my partner could and would like to do. It started with computer science to finish with electricity for buildings. Then we aimed at finding training in electricity and applying for it. We then looked for a work experience in order to increase the chance to pass a selection for the training program. We also talked via WhatsApp to accelerate the process.

Joseph Verriere: I met my partner only twice as he lives in Nantes (it’s one hour drive from Rennes). However, even just over the phone, these meetings went well, and we managed to make his project move forward. After these formal discussions, we also took the opportunity to know each other better. This made the following discussions go much smoother as he felt comfortable asking for support.

What have you learned from this? What has changed?

Kodiko company refugees
Augustin & Hesam

Augustin Vaucelle:  It could be difficult and frustrating to support someone because it depends also a lot on their capacity to handle some topics. On the other hand, it’s very nice to feel that we can help someone to improve their situation. It’s very complicated to dive into French rules (schools, internships, jobs…) when you are not “French formatted”, it’s natural for us but observing it from another point of view is really a “mind opener”.

Lucie Jacquelin: I agree with Augustin, it is very complicated to dive into French rules that are not explicit. Also, some steps to find financial help are also very difficult, even for a French native! Once my partner told me “it’s as if everything was made to make us give up” and I understood what he meant. It was a pleasure working on his project with him.

Ludovic Havet: I have seen that language is really a huge barrier for foreigners arriving in France. I have seen that our country does a lot to include refugees but it’s still very difficult. They must rely on Pôle Emploi (it’s a French governmental agency created in 2008 that registers and helps unemployed people) to get help, but the time Pôle Emploi can dedicate to them is not enough and without further help, it’s too difficult for them. So, having a kind of mentoring, like the one kodiko is doing with volunteers from companies is really beneficial to help them along the way.

Joseph Verriere: It was really rewarding to see the project of my partner becoming real and being able to support him in the French administrative procedures. Seeing this through his eyes showed me how complex it can be when you’re not used to it. Therefore, this support from volunteers through Kodiko is very valuable.

You can watch here a short interview with Augustin Vaucelle and his partner Hesam Pirqadam made by Kodiko (in French)

The overall feeling of our broadpeakers with the experience is extremely positive. All of them, Joseph, Ludovic, Lucie, and Augustin reported to us the gratifying feeling of being useful and being able to have a positive and important impact on someone’s life, especially at such a crucial moment that they are going through in their lives.

In personal terms, the experience also made it possible for our broadpeakers to get to know new realities. They discovered the experiences of people who arrive in France in the delicate condition of refugees, they were also able to look at their own culture itself with different and fresh eyes.

By creating and making possible these social bonds between refugees and people in the French labor force Kodiko counters misconceptions and fears with the concrete stories of refugees, facilitating the integration.  That’s why Kodiko it is an important initiative, by offering a ‟winner-winner” contribution to a more inclusive society, the association is helping build a better world.

The global refugee crisis has been growing for years and has reached record numbers even before Ukraine. There are different reasons that force people to flee the country they’re born in: war, local violence, political persecution, human rights abuses, or environmental disasters. Every effort is needed to make the incidents of displacement become a solvable situation and not a crisis. (read more here)

As you can see, considering the importance of this initiative and the positive experience Broadpeakers decided to participate in Kodiko’s third session in Rennes which is starting now at the end of 2022 (it will be Broadpeak’s second session). We would like to encourage more companies and volunteers to participate in it and join Kodiko’s activities too.

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