Rolf Ackermann works at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport of Baden‑Württemberg, which is a member of the EARLALL network (a FIER partner). The role of the Ministry in the project is moderating a digital campus that allows all project partners in six countries maintain a constant interaction. It is a structure that works for all partners and currently counts on 70 users, who are able to navigate different working structures and folders, in cooperation with the project coordinator in Västra Götaland. Furthermore, the Ministry has been actively involved in engaging regional and local actors with integration activities, allowing a coordinated multi-stakeholder approach to them.
What are the key achievements withing FIER for Baden-Württemberg?
Our work with FIER has been based on three key pillars: empowerment, individualised guidance and innovative training programmes.
The “empowerment” pillar has been key for the development of the other two. Before the beginning of the project, we held a two-day seminar in Stuttgart in 2017 with 400 participants, among which were experts in integration, relevant players from the region, training institutes, municipalities, etc. They got to meet Adnan Abdul Ghani (Support Group Network, Sweden, FIER associate partner), and his enthusiasm was contagious. This was a first step towards all the work that has been done in Baden-Württemberg thanks to FIER.
A key lesson learnt is that we can only integrate and motivate people if they feel empowered themselves and are ready to take on language learning, job searching, etc. and have an open mind towards how the labour market and the society in general work. We as authorities can only support them, but the green light needs to come from each person themselves. There is no sense in giving top-down orders at the job centres if there is no empowerment, a two-sense dialogue is needed.
Once this is achieved, the second and third pillars come along. Individual guidance needs to be directly adapted and go together with the training programmes and agenda. Only if the three pillars are put into place at the same time with the cooperation of all relevant stakeholders can a successful integration process be achieved, and this is indeed what happened with FIER.
Thanks to the network that has been built up in Baden-Württemberg, engaging training institutions, language learning centres, mentoring programmes, and more, expectations have been more than fulfilled. We have reached more than 220 companies with the help of Jobcentre Stuttgart and a total of 700 learners.
In fact, the results are so outstanding that they will be implemented next year after FIER ends in Ravensburg and Freudenstadt, with 100-hour courses beginning already in January. To this purpose, a meeting was held last week in which Ms. Ann Vanden Bulcke from the European Commission also took part. She got to see first-hand the outcomes and awareness that has been raised by FIER.
Which is the biggest challenge that you found and how did you overcome it?
At the beginning, each partner was sticking to their own work building on their own expertise. This was happening in each of the six countries that made up the project consortium but also within the Baden-Württemberg region. Of course, everyone has an expertise in their field, whether it is teacher training (universities), refugee reception (municipalities) or skills matching (job centres). However, it took some time for them to realise that they needed inputs from each other to actually solve the problems they were trying to tackle by themselves. For example, language training institutes might think in the first place that they are on top of research, but this might not be enough.
Therefore, we made sure that very partner was ready to learn from each other, and now labour market aspects have been integrated in language courses, and the language learning process is being take into account at the companies, thanks also to the figure of in-company mentors. It is the combination of all factors that benefits most both learners and the society in general.
How does cooperation at regional level work?
Usually, all the aspects contained in FIER (teacher training, integration, language learning, etc.) are related to concurrent systems at different levels. However, as I was mentioning before, our teacher training providers at university level soon realised that they needed much more knowledge, new information, and impressions of best practices, so they saw immediately what the challenge was for them.
On another hand, job centres they are experts in skills matching, but, as we all know mismatches persists, and this has been seen as an opportunity for learning from the process. Furthermore, a new world of cooperation with relevant partners has been opened.
From the region, we have invited them to meetings to check their priorities and relevant learning fields. Then, we checked some job-shadowing opportunities, and international project meetings were also powerful learning tools, combined with bilateral mobility opportunities; for example, study visits have been made to Gothenburg and Oslo.
Moreover, EARLALL as a network has allowed the dissemination of information, with powerful communication instruments and direct contact with the European institutions.
What do you feel most fier (proud) of after two years of FIER?
We got one family – a complete consortium of trustworthy partners. After FIER, we will keep on working together for new cooperation, and this is not the usual turnout after a project; usually, once a project is finished everyone takes their own direction, but I can tell that this will not happen here. Of course, I am also very proud that we produced excellent outputs, we did our job, and we will work on a political level towards new common cooperation opportunities.
Internally, I am very happy for the Baden-Württemberg partners. They would not have been ready for cooperation without FIER, and now they will work in the future together, because they know how to transfer their learning outcomes and knowledge.
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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.