In August 2016, Dalsland’s Folk High School (run by Region Västra Götaland) started up a course to train “integration coordinators,” a new profession that was born from analyzing the needs of the integration process. It was a one-year general course at upper secondary level: 24 students started, 70% of whom were newly arrived themselves.
After running the course for a couple of years, we saw the need to deepen it to a post‑secondary course. From the beginning, the plan was to have a two-year course, but with too few applicants in autumn 2018 we decided to do a one-year course with the possibility of a supplementary year. Now we have found out that a one-year course is enough for participants to acquire the skills they need, and thanks to FIER, the course has been further developed and implemented.
We believe that integration coordinators can play an important role in bringing people together and work towards a better society for all. By building bridges and creating trust, the integration coordinators can help strengthen relationships and widen the perspectives. They will be working in various professional fields at different organisations; for instance, schools, NGOs, municipalities, private companies, etc. One of our main goals is therefore to make the role of integration coordinator better known among employers. We believe that the impact will actually grow year by year as more students graduate and move into the work force, and thus this new job title will be more widely known and accepted.
Our current students in the course for integration coordinators are working on a real-life case from the very beginning, dealing with inclusion and social development. We have created an exchange with another course that we run, training immigrant women with short previous education. The integration coordinators, together with the women themselves, plan activities for women once a week. This allows them to work as bridge builders between newly arrived refugees and the society.
We believe that the collaboration with our courses (for immigrant women with short previous education) is a new way of working with professional education. Letting our integration coordinators work on a real-life case from the very beginning of the course has contributed to the students’ understanding of their role as Integration coordinators. We believe that this has helped them understand how to work with people; that is, to involve and empower rather than “help” the target group.
We believe that our participants are a key success factor for our education offer: they come from different countries, and are of different ages and gender. This increases the understanding and openness, fostering the belief that “nothing” is right or wrong. They also do a big work to understanding themselves just to be able to support others.
I am Najat Almerdi and I am now an integration coordinator!
About one year ago I traveled from my home in northern Sweden, 700 km away, to attend the one-year course at Dalslands Folk High School. In the course, we studied a great variety of subjects, both theoretical and practical. During the six-week practicum, which was part of the course, I did an internship at Save the Children.
Also, together with a couple of my fellow participants on the course, I developed a project at the Folk High School itself. The school has many participants who are newcomers in Sweden, and we did a study of how they learned Swedish outside the classroom. This led to a number of suggestions from us to the school about how they could improve the learning environment outside the actual classroom.
On top of everything I learned at the course, our own study group was a very good example of an integration project. The participants came from several different countries, including Sweden, which meant that we all had to cope with our cultural differences, and this led to many fruitful discussions. I definitely think this is a success factor for the course, since the classroom becomes more like real life in this way.
Starting in August of this year, I will be project leader for a Human Rights-project with the goal of developing learning materials that can be used to enable newcomers in Sweden to make use of their human rights. This will be a great opportunity for me to use what I have learned in the course and I am very much looking forward to my first job as an integration coordinator!