By Christine Soukenka
REGENSBURG, Germany (Reuters) - Afghan asylum seeker Yar Mohammad Haiqar can't stop smiling because he's finally found a job after arriving in Germany almost three years ago. Now he spends his days painting, plastering and sanding at a dry construction firm.
The 23-year-old is one of 35 refugees who have found a job or apprenticeship through a model project run by the Bavarian Industry Association (VBW) that aims to integrate 120 migrants into German society via work.
That's a small number compared to the 1.1 million migrants who arrived in Europe's largest economy last year. Germany desperately needs new workers to plug a skilled labor shortage caused by partly its ageing population but it is struggling to deal with the record influx and many newcomers do not have the training or language skills the country needs.
"You can have a good life in Germany," Haiqar told Reuters. "Now I've found a job and I find the work very interesting and I would like to stay in this job," he said.
It is not yet clear whether Haiqar, who left his parents and siblings behind in Afghanistan, can stay in Germany and finish his apprenticeship - he is still waiting for a decision on his asylum application.
His employer, Anita Brunner, is helping him deal with all his paperwork and wants to keep him in her firm.
"I think work is one of the best ways to integrate refugees and keep them here," she said.
Bertram Brossardt, managing director of VBW, said it had not been possible to find 120 refugees to take part in the project when it was first set up as originally planned but of the 109 who did join, around 30 percent now had jobs or apprenticeships.
(Writing by Michelle Martin Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)