From war to skilled worker

In 2014, Gaith Diab Alabdallah was forced to flee Syria due to the war. After substantial efforts on his part and support from Aibel Haugesund, he has established a new life for himself in Norway. Last autumn he received his vocational certificate as an Industrial Mechanic. “The job at Aibel has made everything possible,” he says.

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Gaith Diab Alabdallah at work at Aibel. Photo: Øyvind Sætre/Aibel

Gaith worked as an aircraft engine mechanic for helicopters at a military airbase when the war broke out. He resigned from his job to avoid being involved in the war, and since Syria became a dangerous place, he decided to flee for a safer life in Europe.

In Norway, the work on creating a new life began. Initially he had to learn Norwegian, and he came to Aibel for language practice two days a week. He later joined a work training scheme to become an industrial mechanic and was offered a permanent job as a specialist worker at Aibel in 2018.

“When I signed the contract, Ellen Tvergrov told me: “You have to promise to complete your vocational certificate!” I enjoy studying so I immediately decided to get the certificate,” Gaith explains.

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Ellen Tvergrov is the Section Manager for Mechanical Resources. She is, among other things, responsible for the apprentices at Aibel and for people who do work training on their path to working life.

“We have a great partnership with The Norwegian Labor and Welfare Agency (NAV) and there is always 2-3 people on work training here. It takes some time and effort, but it is a scheme we consider important,” she explains.

Tvergrov praises Gaiths efforts:

“Gaith is a sociable and incredibly positive person. He enjoys facing and solving challenges and he enjoys working.”

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Geir Olav Jentoft and Ellen Tvergrov find it rewarding to be able to assist people like Gaith on their path to working life.

Reunited – and started a family
It was important to Gaith to earn an income in order to help his parents who remained in Syria.

“After getting a job, my mum and dad were able to join me, and we are together again now. A few months after they arrived, I met the woman who later became my wife here in Haugesund. We got married and now have a child and our own apartment. This all happened as a result of me getting a job with Aibel and because of all the kind people who helped me, especially Ellen. She has been incredibly supportive and gave me the opportunity to get started. Aibel means a lot to me,” he says.

Help from a great colleague
Gaith completed his vocational certificate and achieved the grade Pass with merit, which is the best grade achievable. Not an easy task when the language is not your own.

“The first thing I had to take was the theory exam. And a theory exam in specialist language can be a bit difficult when you are not in school. But I worked hard on the test, and I got great help from my colleague, Sebastian Saltveit, who completed his apprenticeship examination two months before me. We had been working together for a year and we knew each other well. He was a great colleague, and he gave me a lot of help,” says Gaith.

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Colleague and buddy Sebastian Saltveit was of great help when Gaith completed his vocational program.

What do you envision for the future?

“My dream is to study. I don’t like being without qualifications in Norway. Money is not that important, buy studying and learning something new broadens your mind. I enjoy working with machinery, but I haven’t yet had the opportunity to study it in Norway. Completing my vocational certificate has opened new opportunities, and I can now go to Vocational College and maybe study at university later. Of course, I will stay with Aibel. Perhaps I can find new opportunities here after gaining further qualifications,” he says.

Aibel’s social responsibility
Gaith finds it incredible how Aibel invests time and efforts to help refugees like himself. Senior Resources Manager, Geir Olav Jentoft, is clear about why Aibel does this:

“It is social responsibility. It is important to the local community that we provide opportunities to people who find themselves out of work. Aibel is a big player, so we feel an obligation to do this – and we also find it incredibly rewarding. The vocational certificate is an asset Gaith takes with him into the future, but it is also an asset for Aibel as we need skilled workers”.

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On the walls of the break room, it is apparent that Gaith enjoys working at Aibel.

Becomes a student

Gaith has now been admitted to study Mechanical Engineering at Rogaland Vocational College, a programme he will complete alongside work.