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Amazon, Starbucks and Adidas among 40 companies to hire and train 250,000 refugees across Europe

The Amazon logo is seen at the Vivatech show in Paris in Paris, France, Wednesday, June 14, 2023.
The Amazon logo is seen at the Vivatech show in Paris in Paris, France, Wednesday, June 14, 2023. Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Camille Bello
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The companies - which include Amazon, Accenture, and Adidas - have committed to hiring and training over 250,000 refugees in the next three years.

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Multinational companies have pledged to provide jobs and training to thousands of refugees over the next three years.

The ambitious commitment, announced on the eve of World Refugee Day at the Tent European Business Summit, marks “the most significant set of business commitments ever made to advance the economic integration of refugees,” said the Tent Partnership for Refugees, the network behind the summit.

Leading brands including Adidas, Accenture, Amazon, Hilton, PepsiCo and Starbucks have committed to directly hiring more than 13,000 refugees and training more than 86,000.

Amazon will hire at least 5,000 refugees, and companies including Accenture, Indeed, and Microsoft have committed to training around 40,000.

"In terms of employment, we help them with legal fees, counselling, mentorship, training programmes, the upskill, language, linguistics, everything, anything we can," said J Ofori Agboka, who leads Amazon’s Human Resources for worldwide operations.

"We’re proud of the pledge we have made today, which reflects Amazon’s ongoing commitment to support refugees globally," Agboka said.

In terms of employment, we help them with legal fees, counselling, mentorship, training programmes, the upskill, language, linguistics, everything, anything we can.
J Ofori Agboka
Vice President - People, Experience & Technology, Amazon

"Our goal is to get them not only just meaningful employment but jobs that they can continue to thrive and be able to continue value add to our company," Agboka told Euronews Next.

ManpowerGroup, and Randstad – some of the world’s largest staffing agencies – are among those that have also pledged to connect around 152,000 refugees to employment. The companies' commitments come as Europe faces the largest refugee crisis since World War II.

Millions of people have been forced to flee their homes since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

In the immediate aftermath of the invasion, Europe delivered "an amazing outpouring of support that focused on immediate humanitarian assistance for all Ukrainians in the form of shelter and food and medical support," said Gideon Maltz, CEO of the Tent Partnership for Refugees.

But there is a second phase wherein Ukrainian refugees across Europe will be "looking, and often struggling, to find employment".

Starting over

One of those refugees was Daria Sedihi-Volchenko, who was born and raised in Kyiv. She left Ukraine after Kyiv was "invaded by the Russians."

"I woke up to the sounds of the bombs. And I was so scared. I was terrified, for the Ukrainian nation, for my own life," she told Euronews about her experience of the invasion.

Sedihi-Volchenko at first hid in her basement while she worked as a project manager for the Ukrainian government, trying to get humanitarian supplies to her country.

I woke up to the sounds of the bombs. And I was so scared. I was terrified, for the Ukrainian nation, for my own life.
Daria Sedihi-Volchenko
Ukrainian refugee

"But my life in the basement was difficult… so I realised that I either jump into the car and try to get out or, you know, stay under Russian occupation," she said.

When she arrived in Poland, she had a solid professional background and spoke several languages, including English and German - these skills helped her secure a job at Amazon Web Services, she said.

At the time, Amazon was launching Skills 4U, a new, free workforce-development programme to help Ukrainians pursue cloud computing careers. The company was looking for a project manager, and Sedihi-Volchenko landed the job.

"I was super anxious," she remembered. "I just lost all my life and, you know, over 15 years of my career and then had to start over".

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AP Photo/Sergei Grits, File
FILE - Refugees wait in a line after fleeing the war from neighbouring Ukraine at the border crossing in Medyka, southeastern Poland, 7 April 2022AP Photo/Sergei Grits, File

Refugees can 'strengthen workforces and fill labour gaps'

The commitments by brands and staffing agencies to provide jobs and train refugees will "strengthen companies’ workforces, fill labour gaps, and boost European economies," Maltz told Euronews, while also generating "substantial income for refugees across Europe each year".

In 2022, Tent mobilised the US business community to commit to hiring over 22,000 refugees and training more than 13,000 over the next three years.

"At the time, we calculated that would generate about $900 million in income for refugees," says Maltz.

The exact economic impact figure of the European Summit is still forthcoming, but Tent expects that "cumulatively, the results from [this year’s European] commitment will put more than €2 billion in the pockets of Ukraine and other refugees," said Maltz.

The efforts to bring together the private industry to hire refugees has “been more challenging in Europe than in the US.

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But, he said, the logic is simple.

When refugees can stand on their own two feet, "we are actually relieving an important burden on public resources and government resources".

"It's not about discriminating in favour of refugees. It's really just recognising that there are so many skilled, qualified people who might be unintentionally overlooked if they have to navigate the regular recruiting process," said Maltz.

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