Refugees in Essen learn how wind power works

In the "Empower refugees" project, refugees have completed their training at the KWS PowerTech Training Center. Employment prospects are good. 

Back home in Iran, Hossein Mowludi worked as a tailor for many years. He has now swapped his needle and thread for a safety helmet, spanner and measuring equipment. Just under two years ago, the asylum applicant started his new future at the KWS PowerTech Training Center in Essen. As one of 12 refugees he attended a continuing education course to become an "industrial electrician specialising in industrial engineering in wind power" (Chamber of Industry and Commerce, IHK). And with some success. "I now just need to find a job," said the 43-year-old, after being presented with his certificate.

Essen is seeking to provide refugees with professional prospects for the long term

The chances of employment are good, emphasised Christian Jaffke, project leader of the programme entitled "Empower Refugees", in a speech. Andreas Pinkwart (FDP), Minister for Economic Affairs and Innovation in Düsseldorf, also congratulated the graduates in a video message. He explained that with around 30,000 wind turbines in Germany, "the very best skilled workers" were needed, "who with their attractive vocational qualification can now really launch their careers."

Providing immigrants with long-term professional prospects is important to the city of Essen, explained Mayor Thomas Kufen, and presented the Iranian and Syrian men with the Chamber of Industry and Commerce certificates and the certificates from the KWS PowerTech Training Center. "There are no wind turbines in Essen, they are not profitable here," explained the mayor. For this reason, applicants need to be flexible and willing to travel. There is work available for them in the high-wind regions of North Rhine-Westphalia or in the offshore wind farms in the North and Baltic Seas.

One Syrian man already has an employment contract in the bag

Unlike Mowludi, his classmate Abdulbaset Alhmidi already has the employment contract sorted out. For the job with a Hammer wind power service company, he is having to accept being away from his wife and three children. Over the week he will soon be working away in a team of three to maintain the wind turbines and to carry out servicing inspections. "It's a secure job with a good future, that’s the most important thing," he says.

KWS has been a training and education facility for 60 years 

The Essen-based continuing education and training project "Empower Refugees" was started in 2018. Its aim was to secure employment in wind power generation for migrants, to support integration, and to prevent a shortage of skilled workers.

The KWS PowerTech Training Center in Kupferdreh has been a training and education facility for the areas of power and heat generation for more than 60 years. Around 3,000 participants make use of the training provision every year. 

Now aged 29, Alhmidi came to Essen in 2016. Before fleeing his home country, he had been a medical laboratory technician - an occupation which was not recognised in Germany. He therefore switched careers and attended the refugee classes every day for 16 months in Kupferdreh. Before the actual retraining, there was a basic qualification involving a five-week placement in a wind power company as well as safety training, explained Ernst Michael Züfle, Managing Director at KWS Power Tech Training Center. In order to achieve B2 level, participants had to spend four months working at their German on language courses provided by the social enterprise NEUE ARBEIT and the Weststadt Akademie continuing education and training institute.

Not afraid of working at a height of 140 meters

Hossein Mowludi, the tailor, is pretty fit. In Iran, he had a part-time job as a lifeguard. “Lots of people shudder just thinking about the height I want to work at. But it doesn't worry me,” he says. Modern inland wind turbines are generally 140 metres high. A rotating nacelle with up to three rotors sits on top of their tubular steel towers. Here, in the nacelle, where the system generates its power, the mechanical and electrical components are found, such as the generator gearbox.

Learning in a real power plant

"The first time we were up there, we all turned slightly green in the face," laughs Abdulbaset Alhmidi. The service technicians climb to the top via steep ladders in the tower with climbing protection. You need to be physically fit for the climb. "Modern wind turbines have lifts." Sometimes you have to go outside to complete external work on the nacelle. If you then look down, then you really do get the best views.

Source: (article on the website of the German newspaper WAZ), revised by iMOVE, January 2021