“We need to find completely new settings and activities to bring shortly‑educated newcomers a step ahead: they are crucial.”
In the context of the European Week of Regions and Cities 2018, FIER project partners gathered in Brussels to introduce their project to the public by means of a workshop at the SQUARE conference centre in Brussels.
“FIER” means “proud” in French, and is the abbreviation for “Fast-track Integration in European Regions.” With this words, Therese Ydrén, project coordinator, opened a session made up of a panel discussion and video presentations. She presented the situation in Västra Götaland, a region that last year welcomed 20% of all newly arrived in Sweden. Demand for workers in both public and private sectors is very intense there, but, with an unemployment rate of Swedish-born persons almost not existing, the situation is different for migrants and refugees, a segment in which unemployment rates remain high.
A similar pattern can be found in other regions, such as Baden-Württemberg (Germany), as stated by Rolf Ackermann, from the region’s Ministry for Education, Culture and Sports. In this sense, Prof. Dr. Sarah Lukas, from PH Weingarten, introduced the FIER model in a quick master-class about the “on-the-job language training” concept, taking into account all levels of language: verbal, non-verbal, and para-verbal. Based on the dual system, the aim of this training model is to develop in-company mentors’ skills to help refugees reach a working level of the local language and specific competences that allow them to enter the labour market.
Koenraad Vandenbussche, from GO! onderwijs van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap, one of Belgium’s official networks for Education, enhanced the importance of soft-skills training and civic/intercultural competence for a successful labour market integration. He also introduced Wazir Shinwari, a 3rd-year university student in Social Work who arrived to Belgium ten years ago as a 13‑year-old unaccompanied minor. Wazir explained the obstacles he found towards building his career in Europe due to his third-country national status, many times coming from those institutions that were meant to help him. He dreams of building a culturally-aware single centre that looks after refugees and includes all the current small, unconnected organisations.
In between interventions, videos from partners YUVA (Turkish NGO for sustainable development), Göteborgs Folkhögskola (Swedish training institution) and Support Group Network (Swedish NGO by and for refugees, FIER associate partner) were also displayed during the workshop, showing examples of their work and explaining the topics they cover under FIER.
Video presentation by Support Group Network.
Identified key factors for success were active involvement of the private sector and third‑country nationals themselves (self-empowerment), as well as being able to embed the outcomes of a project like FIER into the administrative structure to make it sustainable and build on its already tangible success.
A big picture perspective is needed for a successful and fast job-market integration, taking into account all relevant stakeholders: training institutions, regional and local authorities, newcomers/trainees, mentors/employees, and, especially, companies, which traditionally have been the most difficult to reach. FIER aims at motivating employers to see the training courses and integrated learning processes as a competence development tool for them that can lift up their whole business. This wide multi-actor approach is key to success.
Video presentation by YUVA.
Featured image on top: © European Union / Fred Guerdin.