The three winners of this year's i-work Business Award for Jena and the region have been announced. The prize in the "large companies" category went to "Mewa Textil-Service SE & Co. Deutschland OHG" from Jena, "QSIL Metals Hermsdorf GmbH" was honored in the "small and medium-sized enterprises" category and the prize for companies in "trade and services" went to "Truck-Center-Jena GmbH". The i-work Business Award - intercultural business award for Jena and the region - honors companies that are exemplary in recruiting international employees and integrating them into the team. The award was presented for the seventh time by the Jena Economic Development Corporation (JenaWirtschaft) together with partners. The towns of Hermsdorf and Kahla also took part for the first time. A total of 11 companies applied for the award.
Robert Jahn, Managing Director of Truck-Center-Jena, was particularly pleased to receive the award. The automotive company with its 19 employees repairs, sells and rents out commercial vehicles. "We have been able to recruit two Vietnamese trainees for our company since August 2022," said Jahn. True to the motto "just do it and don't be put off by bureaucracy," said the truck center boss. "We provide them with a personal language teacher to help them settle in." After all, integration will only work for everyone involved if personal and professional communication is possible. "The added value for us is obvious: we gain motivated trainees and want to work even more closely with a Vietnamese school in the future," says Robert Jahn. According to the i-work jurors, the Truck-Center-Jena in Jena-Maua is a prime example of how even small units can integrate international skilled workers and trainees.
Cooperation in international teams is just as successful at QSILS Metals in Hermsdorf. The company specializes in refractory metals and, with 160 employees, manufactures components for the medical and aerospace industries. The company uses targeted social media campaigns to advertise in Eastern Europe. According to the i-work jury, the company deals with the resulting changes for its employees in a conscious and transparent manner: "We involve our employees from the very beginning and regularly hold many intensive discussions," said QSILS Managing Director Dr. André Dronhofer. "This has greatly increased mutual acceptance." Specialists with a migration background have been supported from the outset. Social interaction among colleagues is encouraged and the company also offers German courses. "Digital offerings also help us," says Dronhofer. "We provide basic occupational safety training via an app in several languages." An overall package that also impressed the patron of the i-work company award, Thuringia's Minister of Labor Heike Werner: "QSILS Metals Hermsdorf GmbH is an ambassador and driver of change. Integration is shaped together as a team. These positive examples are also making the rounds in the international communities and are leading to more skilled workers with a migration background applying for jobs, making the company more competitive." According to Werner, this is an unbeatable advantage in the international market and a role model for many Thuringian companies.
According to the jury, the winner in the "Large Companies" category, MEWA Textilservice, is also exemplary. Here, "working in a multi-cultural environment has already become a matter of course." As Mewa plant manager Andreas Gerlach said, integrative challenges are overcome together so that everyone can benefit from the advantages: "We can only survive in the productive industry if we actively promote diversity in the team and create an inclusive working environment in which all our employees feel welcome," said Gerlach. The working language is German; however, according to the Mewa team, it is fine for new team members to start with a lower level of knowledge and build up their language skills from there. Even if support is needed in the private sphere, managers and colleagues are committed to providing it.
Overall, according to Wilfried Röpke, head of business development, the i-work award shows how actively companies are shaping intercultural diversity. Giving this community a platform for exchange is one of the aims of the award: "Companies from Jena and the surrounding area can find out first-hand what is important for successful cooperation and which measures and strategies work well". The aim is to make these experiences visible and show how diverse and international the Jena region and its companies already are. After all, according to Röpke, it is not only the regional economy that benefits from greater diversity, but society as a whole.
The i-work Business Award has been presented by the Jena Economic Development Agency in cooperation with various partners, including the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, since 2017. It recognizes companies that are exemplary in their efforts to integrate their international employees in the company and in society. Companies of all sizes and sectors are expressly invited to apply. Prizes are awarded in the categories "Small and medium-sized enterprises", "Large companies" and "Craft" will be awarded. The patron of the competition is Heike Werner, Thuringian Minister for Labor, Social Affairs, Health, Women and Family.
The following companies applied for the i-work Business Award in 2023:
- 2b special GmbH
- Accenture Dienstleistungen GmbH
- Asclepion Laser Technologies GmbH
- GÖPEL electronic GmbH
- JENTECH Datensysteme GmbH
- Laser Imaging Systems GmbH
- Mewa Textil-Service SE & Co. Management OHG
- Micro-Hybrid Electronic GmbH
- QSIL Metals Hermsdorf GmbH
- SCHOTT AG
- Truck-Center-Jena GmbH
Jury of the i-work Business Award:
- Dr. Eike Dazert - Managing Director medways e.V.
- Stephanie Hänsch - Deputy Chairwoman of the Board Jena Digital e.V.
- Dr. Claudia Hillinger - Head of International Office, Friedrich Schiller University Jena
- Cornelia Meyerrose - Welcome Center Jena
- Anke Siegmeier - Managing Director OptoNet e.V.
- Dr. Vladimir Sivakov - Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology e.V. (Leibniz IPHT)
- Anna Uslova - Children's Language Bridge Jena e.V.
- Manuela Vogt - Managing Director of the Jena/Saale-Holzland District Crafts Association
- Gerd Wolski - Thuringian Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Health, Women and Family
Sound bites from all jury members are available online.
Voices on the i-work company award 2023
Heike Werner, Thuringian Minister of Labor, Social Affairs, Health, Women and Family and patron of the I-work competition:
"The importance of successful and actively designed integration of people from different cultural contexts will continue to increase for Thuringian companies. The i-work company award recognizes the great efforts that our Thuringian companies are already making to ensure that people from different countries of origin work together optimally. This year's award winners show the great added value of a corporate culture that welcomes all people. In the competition for skilled workers, we must make exemplary concepts and measures visible. Because if we want to remain competitive in the future, we need to be open to people of all backgrounds and organize everyday working life in a collaborative way. The companies honored today are examples of how this can be achieved in an outstanding way."
Dr. Thomas Nitzsche (FDP), Lord Mayor of Jena:
"Many Jena companies are exemplary in their commitment to a tolerant, sustainable working world in which people from all over the world work together innovatively. This commitment is a prerequisite for ensuring that companies can continue to develop well here. After all, we know from the Skilled Workers Study 2030 that our 'inner' potential - the potential from Jena - will never be enough to cover the companies' personnel requirements. It's simple math. There will be a shortage of thousands of skilled workers in Jena if we don't try to take countermeasures. We need immigration so that Jena and the surrounding area can continue to prosper. We in the administration are also trying to create a good framework for equal and diverse coexistence. A welcoming culture is an important aspect of our self-image - in business as well as in administration and in our urban society in general. Our goal is to employ even more people with diverse cultural backgrounds in the administration in order to benefit from the advantages of diverse teams."
Jan Schönfeld (Freie Wähler Kahla), Mayor of Kahla:
"This was our first time as a partner of the i-work company award, because we want to show that companies in the surrounding area are also implementing great ideas and measures to make their teams more diverse. Just like in Jena, many skilled workers in Kahla will retire in the next few years, and the number of new recruits from within the company's own ranks is very limited due to demographic change. Internationalization is still a challenge in rural areas, but we want to show how good cooperation can work and how any fears of contact that still exist can be overcome. Because rural areas are very pragmatic: if we want something to work together, then we can make it work."
Benny Hofmann (non-party), Mayor of Hermsdorf:
"Hermsdorf is a 'hidden champion' in the Jena/ Hermsdorfer Kreuz technology region. Our technology companies and research institutes need the knowledge and manpower of international specialists, because we cannot meet the demand with young talent from Thuringia alone. We see our involvement and partnership in the i-work company award as a starting point so that the numerous local companies and institutions - many of them under the umbrella of the Tridelta Campus Hermsdorf - can present their good examples of integration and learn from others. And of course I am all the more delighted that a company from Hermsdorf has been able to take home one of the three prizes in our very first year of participation. Congratulations especially from me to QSIL Metals Hermsdorf GmbH."
Dr. Claudia Hillinger, Head of the International Office at the University of Jena and jury member:
"The award-winning companies have recognized that great opportunities arise from interculturally diverse teams: they strengthen both their own innovative power and global competitiveness. To this end, Truck-Center-Jena, QSILS Metals Hermsdorf and MEWA Textil-Service implement a broad portfolio of integrative measures for and with their employees. But the other applicants from the community are also shaping integration within the scope of their individual possibilities. We are pleased that many companies are also working together with the university to enable our international students in particular to enter the Thuringian labor market."
Wilfried Röpke, Managing Director of the Jena Economic Development Agency:
"Diverse teams benefit from their diversity. With the i-work award, we want to honor those companies that make a special contribution to the integration of new skilled workers. Above all, however, we want to use the i-work award to create an environment and a community in which companies can learn from each other: What requirements are needed, what measures and strategies work, and how do you also face the stumbling blocks on the way to intercultural diversity in the team. Because one thing is certain: without international specialists, Jena as a business location will no longer be able to build on the success of recent decades. That's why we all need to work together - especially in view of next year's elections - to shape a cosmopolitan, international Jena."
The i-work Business Awards are supported by the following partners
- Friedrich Schiller University Jena
- City of Jena
- City of Hermsdorf
- City of Kahla
- Jena-Digital e.V.
- Jena District Craftsmen's Association
- medways e.V.
- OptoNet e.V.