The Steinbeis Perspective Program: A Win-Win Situation for Participants and Companies

The Steinbeis University program provides support with the integration of refugees in the German employment market

Marwan Shaaban is 26. In the summer of 2015 he fled his home in Syria and came to Germany. Now, two years later, the construction engineer with sought-after qualifications is working for LBBW Immobilien Kommunalentwicklung GmbH (LBBW KE), a subsidiary of the state bank Landesbank Baden-Wuerttemberg. The arrangement was lined up through a program Shaaban was involved in at the School of International Business and Entrepreneurship (SIBE), which belongs to Steinbeis University Berlin. By the end of the program, he will have completed a management degree in parallel to his time in employment. In an interview with TRANSFER, the young engineer, Martin Riedißer (Managing Director of LBBW KE), and Heiko Richter (senior project manager and Shaaban’s boss) talk about their positive experience with the joint project.

Hello, Mr. Riedißer, could you tell us what led to your company deciding to take on a refugee and what factors the decision was based on?

Riedißer: We heard about the interesting program offered by SIBE and wanted to provide an opportunity to a refugee. There was an applicants’ day in Herrenberg and for us, there were five candidates in the running; Mr. Shaaban had already been our favorite. One factor that was also important was that hiring people is becoming increasingly difficult, especially in technical areas. Mr. Shaaban has studied construction engineering and we find it difficult to inspire construction engineers to come and work for us because our niche is not very well known among construction engineers. Also the construction industry simply pays higher salaries! So for us it was good to be able to take on a young person who can grow into the local government consulting business. So it’s a winwin situation for both parties.

One essential point that needed clarifying beforehand was how to communicate. In urban development, everything is immersed in the local language and goes hand in hand with the culture. So it was important to be clear about how somebody who is now completely removed from his home country could be integrated into the processes. We now want to send out a signal about our positive experiences. In essence this can work for any company!

Turning to you, Mr. Shaaban, you’ve now been on board at LBBW KE for half a year. What are you working on right now?

Shaaban: My brief is to look at the success factors of large-scale projects such as the Bahnstadt development in Heidelberg or projects in Bad Kreuznach and Freiburg. I’m analyzing the parameters that dictate success for a major construction project. I’m also involved in the day-today business, carrying out research for project planning, checking calculations, and lots of other things. We need the right factors to be in place for every project in order to make the right decisions. This is important for successful projects. I’m so happy that I’m able to work on something this big – it’s the sort of thing I dreamed about as a child. Richter: One project we’ve involved Mr. Shaaban in is the big Bahnstadt development in Heidelberg. They’re building a completely new city district for Heidelberg called Bahnstadt on the site of the old freight depot. Everything an urban district needs is being put in place on an area measuring 120 hectares. So there’ll be apartments, places to work, a movie theater, maybe even shopping centers. This involves carrying out the urban planning; we’re putting the local public infrastructure in place, and we’re talking with investors. This is where Mr. Shaaban’s master’s thesis comes in, which forms part of his degree at the School of International Business and Entrepreneurship (SIBE) at Steinbeis University. The aim is also for Mr. Shaaban to get to know our bread-andbutter business, so this will involve a smaller project developing a twohectare plot of land in the Black Forest.

Riedißer: For us, the success of the project hinges on things such as whether the development goes down well with people, or whether people really want to live in Bahnstadt in Heidelberg. Of course it’s also important to us that a major project like this is successful, or in other words that we can work on it and make a profit. So that’s a factor that Mr. Shaaban will also need to take a look at. For his degree project, he’s developing a system for working out the success factors of large-scale projects.

Richter: Hey Mr. Shaaban, you know we can’t wait to see the ideas you come up with!

Another question for Mr. Shaaban: What made you decide in favor of doing the SIBE program?

Shaaban: I’ve wanted to work since the first day I arrived in Germany and I was always looking out for opportunities. The SIBE program, which allows you to work and study as part of an English-language master’s program, addressed all of the important factors for me and fulfilled all the key requirements.

Richter: We’re consciously pushing the model to inspire people to work for us. We’re convinced that we have some interesting things for the students to work on. And of course that’s exactly what the students are looking for – to work on something meaningful.

You mentioned the challenge with the language – how is communication working in everyday situations?

Richter: We made a conscious decision to speak German to each other. Mr. Shaaban’s understanding of German is getting better the whole time, which also has something to do with the German course he’s doing, which is being organized by SIBE. I wouldn’t go so far as to expect him to write minutes after an entire meeting; instead I give him tasks that are a good fit for him. Mr. Shaaban is mainly working in technical areas and spends a lot of time working with Excel, which is an area where there aren’t so many language barriers.

Based on your experience to date, what advice would you give to other companies?

Riedißer: That’s an easy one: Give it a go! I believe there’s a niche in every company where you can use somebody who hasn’t yet gotten a proper grip of the German language. People shouldn’t get so hung up about the language and cultural side of things. There are always ways to solve issues. Cultural differences just aren’t an issue if somebody is interested in becoming integrated like Mr. Shaaban. But even if they were an issue, we have ways of dealing with them. Some people spend too much time worrying rather than seeing things as an opportunity. And that’s the point: I think there are opportunities for employers to gain access to graduates in specialist areas that are otherwise difficult to find people in. And that doesn’t just mean construction engineers. It also gives firms a chance to fill vacant positions and introduce people to a new profession. And of course having a degree in something like management is always useful!

Richter: At the beginning of the interview, you said something about us being a perfect example of how the model works – I think we can confirm that. We feel totally optimistic about it. Working with Mr. Shaaban really does add value for us – it’s a big gain!


For further information on the Perspective Program, go to

Sandra Flint
Steinbeis School of International Business and Entrepreneurship at Steinbeis University Berlin (Herrenberg)