I believe we can make a real difference

Shell and Refugee Talent Hub started working together earlier this year; a valuable partnership that brings together the current labour market challenges, refugee talents, the energy transition and Diversity & Inclusion. The first programme we started together, a learning programme for IT talent, was a success: 16 out of the 19 participants were offered a contract with Shell! Reason enough to interview two participants, Ali Katlabi and Khaled Alsaleh, and Shell’s social impact director, Anne Schreuder, about the IT programme and the value of work.

Photographic Services, Shell International Limited

Eager to work

Ali and Khaled – both originally from Syria – share an eagerness to work. They are passionate about what they do and wasted no time looking for opportunities. “From the moment I arrived in The Netherlands, I started looking for jobs and establishing connections with organisations that support refugees,” says Khaled. Both men were instantly enthusiastic when they came across this programme at Shell. “It looked perfect,” says Ali. “A small group, training in problem solving, presentation skills, soft skills, a large international organisation… it really spoke to me.”

Khaled nods and adds: “The courses and the material were very structured and professional. There were different courses to choose from, different platforms to learn, different areas to specialise in. And the combination with soft skills was great and very useful.”


“The support we felt from our buddies and managers was amazing from the start,” says Ali. “From day one we felt at home; they really created a safe learning environment for us. We could ask all sorts of questions, it was informal and it all focused on helping everyone grow. That really meant a lot.” The 19 participants also joined a WhatsApp group and got to know each other over pizza. It created a community feel. “Exactly what we were after,” says Anne. “My impact team, the managers, the buddies and everyone else involved – we all worked so hard to make this a successful programme. This is great feedback; incredibly rewarding.”

Make a difference

“In my role as the societal impact director, it’s my aim to find ways to combine the business needs with social impact. As part of Shell’s focus on an inclusive transition, I look at ways of opening up job opportunities for all talents, for instance. As soon as I met Refugee Talent Hub, I knew we’d be a good fit. I believe we can make a real difference,” Anne continues.

The IT programme was set up to also include learning opportunities for Shell colleagues. Every participant had a buddy, a line manager and a technical buddy. For many of them it was their first personal encounter with a refugee. “Personal encounters are so powerful. They change the way people think: from ‘us and them’ to ‘we’. And even though we are very international already, of course we all have unconscious biases. I noticed barriers crumbling in the past few months,” she smiles. “To make this work, it’s crucial to have endorsement from the executive level and to know that everyone is intrinsically motivated. Which is 100% present at Shell. We are already talking about next steps: turning this programme into a blueprint. It generated so much positive energy throughout Shell that it has sparked ideas to copy this to other departments and countries.”

Value of work

It leads us to a deeper conversation about the value of work. A meaningful moment that makes us realise once more that we all have similar needs and wishes, no matter where we are from or what our role is. Khaled, Ali and Anne all use similar words to describe what the value of work is to them personally: autonomy, independence, self-esteem, growth, energy, happiness, goals, be active, contribute to the community, support my family, the chance to flourish.

“Getting a contract with Shell made me feel so proud,” says Khaled. “It filled me with appreciation,” adds Ali. “It made me feel valued.”

“And that,” they continue together, “is what we wish for other refugees as well. And we know opportunities don’t just come flying your way. So, we have some tips:

  • Make a plan and set yourself a goal
  • Learn the language
  • Be open-minded
  • Learn new things; keep growing
  • Believe you can do it!”

🎞️See this video about Shell Learning Programme for Refugee Talents

New programme alert!

Are you excited after reading this story? We have some good news to share! Because, after the success of this first Learning Programme, Shell and the Refugee Talent Hub are organising a second 4-6 months unpaid learning programme for refugees [statushouders]. We are inviting you to what we believe will be an incredible, fun, and rewarding learning journey, to work together and to learn from each other.

Read more and register before November 12th. Click here.

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