The mentoring programme Mitt Liv (My life) has helped him to get onto the labour market in Sweden and to find a position at the Volvo Group.
“Today I’ve been told that I have a permanent job here. It’s fantastic!” he says.
It is a very happy Ibrahim Sabbagh who meets us outside what is now his permanent workplace in the warranty material department, which is part of the aftermarket division. He handles complaints, warranty claims and spare parts.
“After having lost everything in my home country of Syria, I can now finally start to look to the future. Volvo believed in me and gave me a chance. Here I can do a job that I’ve been trained for and create a career for myself,” he explains.
Ibrahim Sabbagh’s story is both painful and distressing. He has a degree in mechanical engineering from Damascus University and he describes his secure life in Syria with his wife and five children. For 21 years he worked for the UN’s humanitarian organisation UNRWA, which supports Palestinian refugees who have left their homes because of the conflict in the Middle East. Ibrahim was responsible for maintenance and logistics for the 170 or so vehicles used to help the refugees.
When the war broke out in Syria, everything was turned on its head. Security and normal everyday life simply disappeared. Just getting to and from work meant taking your life in your hands. Ibrahim and his wife were terrified that their children would be injured or killed and they were finally forced to make a very difficult decision.
“They couldn’t stay in Syria,” he says and shakes his head.
The first person to leave was their eldest son, because he was at immediate risk of being forced to join the army, where it was a case of kill or be killed. Later another three of Ibrahim’s children fled. Only Ibrahim, his wife and his youngest daughter were left in Syria.
He describes how he felt while his children were crossing the Mediterranean in small boats.
“Those were days from hell. I couldn’t eat or even think straight. I was terrified.”
However, two years later there was an emotional reunion for the whole family at Gothenburg airport.
Despite his good qualifications, at first Ibrahim found it hard to get a job in Sweden. He applied for hundreds of positions with no success. Then he gradually made contact with UTI, an organisation for foreign technical specialists and engineers, and later discovered the Mitt Liv mentoring program.
A six-month trial period at the Volvo Group has now led to a permanent job.
“I feel very much at home here. I have great people to work with and my manager, Linda Petersson Wahlqvist, is amazing. Because Volvo is a large organisation, I will have plenty of opportunities to develop my career,” he says.
During his first few months in Sweden he took a number of different training courses and met many other foreign academics who were struggling to get a job. A lot of them had become resigned to their situation and had almost given up. He decided on his own initiative to invite some of his former fellow students to a meeting at his new workplace.
“Around 20 people came. I wanted to give them hope and show them that it is possible to get a job and that there really are companies, like the Volvo Group, which employ foreigners with academic qualifications,” he says.
Facts about Mitt Liv
Mitt Liv is a Swedish company which is helping to create a more inclusive society and a labour market that values diversity. The Volvo Group has been working with Mitt Live since 2012. The cooperation involves Volvo employees acting as mentors to job seekers and giving advice on things like how to write a good CV and what to say in an interview. Around fifty employees have already taken on a mentoring role.
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