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European Year of Skills

Empowering Refugees: Transforming Lives Through Skills

The Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE SIforREF project makes a real difference in the lives of refugees. It helps to integrate refugees into society and the labour market. This project is not just about change; it is about transformation, and about making a difference in the lives of those who need it the most.  

SIforREF equips refugees with the skills they need to thrive in a new environment. The project includes seven pilot programmes dedicated to enhancing the skills and employability of refugees, with focus on soft skills. Every pilot programme is addressed to a specific challenge with a specific target group. The participants in the pilots have encountered linguistic and cultural challenges in the workplace, but through the programme acquired essential soft and hard skills for their future success in the labour market. 

Work for refugees 

One of the seven pilot projects - "Work for refugees" in Berlin - launched a counselling service exclusively for refugee women. This innovative service was rolled out for a six-month period in 2021. It supported refugee women with personalised counselling, for example during the job search and application process. It also helped inspire career aspirations with a series of workshops "Pathways to the Labour Market for Refugee Women". As a result, 59 refugee women received advice during this period, and 14 of them successfully found an employment.  

Meet Amena  

Amena worked as a teacher in Syria for 15 years, but once in Berlin, she could not find a job and struggled with learning German. This is where "Work for Refugees" came into play. The project offered her personalised support and guidance through the application process, also helping in communication with future employers. Work for refugees gave her encouragement and support throughout the process. Today, Amena works as a kitchen helper at an elderly residence. 

“Thanks to this encouragement I could overcome the difficult phase and work happily.” 

And the encouragement goes even further - Amena’s hope is to overcome the language barrier and work as an Arabic language teacher in the future. 


The project was supported with the Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE SIforREF, which is a transnational project partnership that involved researchers, local government representatives, and members of civil society from five partner regions of Parma, Ljubljana, Berlin, Vienna, and Bologna in four European Union countries. The project was funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Interreg is an EU instrument aimed at strengthening cooperation between regions and countries within the EU, having sponsored 138 cooperation projects across Central Europe that have addressed common regional challenges.