Berit K. works at Oslo Rosenhof Adult Centre, a public school run by the City of Oslo, which offers courses in Norwegian and Social Studies for adult immigrants. It is the largest school in Norway, with about 2,800 students, and a big part of them belong to the introduction program for newly arrived refugees. In addition, they offer online Norwegian language courses with frequent one-to-one guidance, elementary school for adult refugees and immigrants, and lower secondary school for young adults (16-19) and adults.
What does integration mean to you?
Our work with integration comes from the government, who is leading a policy that states the need of migrants and refugees to be integrated in the labour market and the society, without losing their cultural or ethnic identity. Working at Oslo Rosenhof Adult Centre gives me and my colleagues the opportunity to help migrants to get a job, which I think is central for their integration.
It is hard to get a long-term position with little or no school background. There are many participants at school, where they learn about social rules, but until they get a job, they do not know what it really is. Our challenge is to do this the best way, and family life is also a field that is important for integration, complementary to the integration of children in school. Voluntary work and follow-up of participants will be central for a successful integration.
What are your main activities in the field of integration?
Linking language learning to work motivates learners, and Oslo Rosenhof Adult Centre is implementing work oriented language training by offering local pathways to employment (fast-track programmes) within the hotel industry and retail sector/chains. We have about 2,800 participants per course, who come to learn Norwegian. However, language is not everything; thus, we also provide different courses with a focus on working life that enable immigrants to get jobs while they are at school. Therefore, they will have the opportunity to earn money and be ready once the introductory program is over.
We also provide courses that prepare participants for high school and we are starting with a two-year high school program. These offers allow participants to graduate and receive economic support from the state while they are in the introductory program, and suit the most those who already have some school background in their home country. On the other hand, with FIER, we have the opportunity to give those who have little or no school background (and, therefore, a difficulty to get integrated in the labour market) a chance to get a job.
However, I would also like to highlight the importance of cooperation with other stakeholders, like, for example, program advisors in the municipality. Participants need a close monitoring by several persons in the beginning to succeed, and we have to work together. This is why our plan is also to build up a mentoring program for the working place; this project is only in its preparatory phase right now, but it is also an important factor that increases the participants’ chances to keep their jobs.
Oslo Adult Centre Rosenhof’s canteen facilities, waiting for the first 16 participants of the FIER training course to arrive.
Which are your role and expectations within the FIER project?
I want to gather expertise from schools, the labour market and the volunteering sector so that we can all together give the participants the opportunity to find a workplace that fits for them. FIER participants have hardly any school background from their home country, so learning to read, talk and write takes some years before they reach a level that allows them to be employed. However, many people are good at working, so if we, as a school, are able to provide them with lessons until they are ready, we are improving their chances to get a job.
Our first activity within FIER will be the canteen workshop, with school as a training area. Participants will begin with this pilot project in August 2018, and it will allow us to check the challenges in a controlled environment.
After Christmas, we will find workplaces in the ordinary working life for two alternate days per week (the other three days will be spent at school), and, eventually, we will increase the time they are working. A teacher will follow their progress at work and keep track of the challenges they might face; this will also allow the teacher to get practice about difficulties from working life that might have been overlooked during the lessons in class.
Our inspiration in this project comes from the Swedish initiatives, especially in the joint courses for canteen work and cleaning. In fact, we are very glad that our partners in Gothernburg are coming to visit us in November. In Norway, there are opportunities for work, and, thanks to these training courses, participants can be better prepared for working life. Upon completion of the FIER course, their opportunities will increase, because they know what is required from them in several areas.
My wish for this project is that we are able to follow the participants until they can manage by themselves. Reaching an A2 (CEFR) level is a success factor for working life, so we will try and make the best use of FIER funds to keep this tracking for a longer period of time, and we will also work in searching other sources so we can continue with this process once FIER is over. Certification and validation is also an issue that we need to tackle.
What do you feel most fier (proud) of regarding your organisation’s activities?
As an organisation, we must learn to integrate adaptability and creative capability into our repertoire. Taking part in international Erasmus+ projects that support areas of education and training with specific focus on adult learning allows us to develop more creative ways of thinking and behaving.
Other EU-funded projects in which Oslo VO Rosenhof is taking part
TALENTS. This Erasmus+ KA2 project focuses on the inclusion of immigrants and refugees in language and professional training in order to support their fast access to the world of work – as jobs are understood as the most important basis for integration. The aim of this project is to develop the potential of immigrants and refugees, with the help of individualized guidance, tailor-made training and cooperation with companies.
The difference with FIER is that TALENTS focuses on newly arrived people who already have some school background and need their first job in the country to begin a new career, with language support and guidance.
Integration policies in Norway
Integration initiatives like this are supported by the Norwegian Government and Skills Norway (the Norwegian Agency for Lifelong Learning), and belong to the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research.
In 2017 the Government initiated work on Norway’s national skills strategy in order to strengthen collaboration between different sectors in formulating skills policies. The strategy sets the goals and perspectives for work regarding skills policies from 2017 to 2021. It has three main focus areas:
- Good choices for individuals and for society.
- On-the-job learning and putting skills to good use.
- Strengthening the skills of adults with weak affiliation to the world of employment.
Skills Norway is a driving force when it comes to ensuring that the partners to the strategy achieve their goals.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any official body or the FIER project itself.