Success story creates a firm foundation

Seven years after fleeing Syria, 20-year-old journeyman Mohammed Nader Salam finishes third at the national screed laying finals.

Mohamad Nader Salam came from Syria seven years ago as a young refugee without speaking a word of German. Today, he can chat without any problems and has done very well professionally. He recently finished third as a screed layer at the national occupational competition organised by the German Central Association of Skilled Trades. The team at his training company, Zebo Fußbodenbau in Herschbach near Selters in the Westerwald district, are proud of him. Director Philipp Frensch clearly remembers the first time he met Nader. "He was a student and one day he simply walked through the door to ask whether he could train with us." Frensch was impressed by his initiative. First, he offered him a practical work placement, then a holiday job and then took him on straight away as a trainee. "He had achieved his school leaving certificate and his grades were good. Above all, however, he was very good practically," emphasizes Frensch.

Nader Salam fled the war in Syria with his family in 2015. He went to school in Dierdorf where he received additional language support, however he had to attend regular classes in German from day one. "It was hard for me at school when I was a child. People always say children learn languages easily, but I was always scared about saying something wrong," he explains. However, he says he was well supported by the teachers and German quickly became his favourite subject.

He realised at an early stage that he wanted to train after finishing school. Before becoming aware of Fußbodenbau, he didn't know about the occupation of screed layer. Nadar quickly impressed Philipp Frensch, the director. "Work as a screed layer is not for everybody, it's physically demanding. However, he took to it immediately". The young man was welcomed as part of the team, and the contact with colleagues meant his German improved more. "Language in this occupation is important. Nader has done well and has now become group leader. That's working out fine," explains Frensch.

He completed the practical element of the training with the Westerwald-based company. The teaching started with other trades at the Koblenz Chamber of Crafts and Trades (HWK) and continued in blocks, in Schweinfurt or online, from the second training year onwards. Germany's only vocational school for screed layers is in Schweinfurt in Bavaria, 250 kilometres from the training company. According to Zebo, Germany there are currently around 25 apprentices in the trade across Germany. "What we learned there, about the different coverings and levelling coats, was easy for me; I’d already done that at the company."

And although he'd only been living in Germany for a few years, Salam had made a great start technically and professionally. He passed the journeyman examination as the best in his year. The HWK Koblenz invited him to take part in the practical occupational competition at federal state level. Again, he came out on top. With encouragement from Philipp Frensch, he competed in the national final in Berlin – and was therefore up against the best screed layers in Germany. "That was tough: we had to work on our own for two days laying screed at a given height and with a flooring on top together with subfloor preparation. We also had to provide a recess for floor mats." The 20-year-old did brilliantly to come third and the whole team is proud of him.

Before Nader, no other Zebo trainee had ever achieved such success. He is a real plus for the company. Looking back, the director points out the following: "Just because Nader came from Syria didn't mean didn't make much of a difference to us. It doesn't matter whether a young person comes from Germany or from abroad, what's important is that they are interested in the occupation and put the work in". Nader does exactly that. He now wants to gain further practical experience in the occupation and then sit the master craftsperson examination in two years' time. So this is a genuine, ongoing success story.

Source: (news from the chamber of commerce of Koblenz), revised by iMOVE, June 2023