The cleaning machine does its rounds at a snail’s pace. In the damp trail it leaves behind, the reflection shows long rows of neon strip lights which flood the enormous hall with a cold light. Fruit and vegetables are delivered here for the whole of western Switzerland (Romandy), between 600 and 700 tons per week. Beneath the little boards bearing the names of the branches, Cossonay, Chablais, Lausanne Métropole and so on, long rows of empty pallets form a large U shape.
At the end of our tour, about midday, some of the roller shutters are opened, the first truckers unload mandarins, oranges or broccoli. Early the next morning, employees will swarm through the hall, seemingly in a haphazard fashion, stacking the delivered goods on the pallets for the 69 branches in the distribution area. In a seemingly haphazard fashion … they receive instructions given in a generic computer voice via headsets and smartphones, and acknowledge each completed job via headset, too. Right in the middle of this hustle and bustle is Yohannes Teame. One of many, and yet an individual, one on whom Pascal Apothéloz, the boss here, keeps a very watchful eye. Teame, 22, is a logistics apprentice in his final year. He is the only one here whose apprenticeship lasts three years instead of two. The first person at Migros in Vaud to complete what is known as INVOL, the pre-vocational integration training programme.
A long string of adjectives, all positive
At the back of the freshly cleaned hall a large gate now swings open. Yohannes Teame drives his red forklift across the warehouse. It almost looks as though he is hovering over the glossy floor on his vehicle.
Yohannes Teame fled from Eritrea. He was 16 in 2015 when he arrived in Switzerland as what they call a UASC in bureaucratic jargon, an Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child. Now he lives in Prilly, a suburb of Lausanne. He battled with the language which has absolutely nothing in common with his mother tongue, Tigrinya. Then he started looking for an apprenticeship. Work, emphasises Teame again and again, is the most important factor in a successful integration, along with language. Whilst also being a big barrier. A lot of professions were out of the question, so Yohannes Teame did some internships in logistics, in car body design and as a carer in a retirement home. He enjoyed logistics, he likes working with machines, and working in a team. He likes having to work fast and yet with high levels of concentration, and that he can see the fruits of his labour straight away. He describes himself as interested and motivated. Apothéloz adds attentive, proactive, responsible, friendly, helpful, popular ... all positive.
Interested and motivated are no longer sufficient. The “flip side”, as Yohannes Teame puts it, has always carried more weight … the fact that you can see, at first glance, that he is not Swiss and hear straight away that he has not grown up here. He filled in over 100 applications, has completed seven stages of a logistics apprenticeship. On the seventh, it clicked. Pascal Apothéloz, who is responsible for the Distribution Logistics apprentices in Ecublens, said: “By the end of the week, it was clear that we would take a risk on the experiment.” Social commitment fits with our fundamental principles at Migros. Inclusion is a keyword. It also has a business purpose, according to Apothéloz, as it also enlarges the pool of potential workers. Or rather, it does not restrict it.
An apprenticeship gives you perspective
In the first year, Yohannes Teame went to a vocational college for two days a week. He finished off his schooling and worked on his French so he would be ready for the normal apprenticeship. Today he speaks calmly and warmly, in a gentle manner, choosing his words carefully. “Yes,” he says, “I have overcome the language barrier.” The school work does not cause him many problems, there is a certain air of effortlessness about him. That’s because of the perspective that the apprenticeship gives him, says Teame, one of freedom and independence. This is what he wants to achieve. He would like to continue working at Migros after the apprenticeship. Independence is particularly important to him, he’d like to build a future for himself here in Switzerland.
The language barrier has been overcome.
Yohannes Teame, Logistics apprentice at Migros Vaud
Yohannes Teame has got to know the huge distribution centre inside out. He has worked in every department, in fruit and vegetables, in the big refrigerated warehouse and in the “Kolonial” department. He clearly remembers his first day, as he stood there, somewhat lost in the huge site. He remembers his arrival in Switzerland just as clearly, as he stood there, somewhat lost in life. These memories had an impact on him, he helps wherever he can and always tries to explain exactly where things are located, so others don’t feel as lost as he did.
Inclusion at Migros
Inclusion is part of Migros’ DNA. It is a natural part of everyday working life. People from all kinds of backgrounds work for the company, people with physical and psychological disabilities, and Migros also helps socially disadvantaged young people on their path into and through the world of work.
As such, Migros is fulfilling its social responsibility whilst also benefitting from the advantages this brings in the labour market, by not excluding workers from the outset and looking for solutions and ways to integrate people with disabilities. This means they can use their skills to contribute to Migros’ success. You can find more on Migros' commitment at migros.ch/jobs
Foto/Stage: Christophe Chammartin