A change in the conference programme occurred due to the illness of the planned key-note speaker from the Council of Europe Ms Olöf Olofsdottir. She was substituted by Ms Susan Waddington from NIACE in the UK who talked about the experiences from the project Progress GB.
Routes and Pathways to Integration
– Lessons from Progress GB
The results from the Progress GB project are valid for many European countries. It shows that we still have many barriers for refugees and immigrants. It can be concluded that Europe is failing to benefit fully from the talents of refugees and immigrants. To a large extent it is our own fault that they don’t contribute.
This was Susan Waddington’s summary of current situation. Susan works as a European development officer at NIACE (National Institute of Adult Continuing Education) in the UK. She has been involved in Progress GB, an EQUAL Round 2 Development Partnership aiming to address barriers to appropriate employment for refugees and migrants. The partnership has dealt with piloting and mainstreaming innovative approaches to the following two objectives:
1. Supporting employers to overcome skills shortages by promoting inclusive work practices;
2. Helping refugees and migrants to develop and adapt their skills for the UK labour market through a range of lifelong learning opportunities.
The presentation delivered was built on the reports and discussions that took place the week before in London, when the project had its final conference together with Trade Union Congress unionlearn. The full report - Routes to Integration and Inclusion: New Approaches to Enable Refugee and Migrant Workers to Progress in the Labour Market – can be ordered by sending an e-mail to ProgressGB(ät)niace.org.uk .
Susan Waddington described the situation setting out from the barriers encountering the refugees and immigrants and the route ahead was pointed out with the help of pathways building on two main elements.
The barriers that the refugees and immigrants have to fight against are manifold:
• Lack of language skills and references from former employers
• Lack of experiences of taking responsibilities and culture at the workplace
• Negative attitudes to new and emerging immigrant communities
The two main elements to build upon contain
1. Skills recognition and vocational pathways
• Skills audits
• Vocational ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) courses
• Work experience
• Mentoring and personal support
• Job coaching
• Celebration of success (publicly)
2. New information, advice and guidance (IAG) services involving
• Partnerships and networks
• IAG in the most common immigrant languages (now Polish, Farsi and ?)
• Advice on learning at the workplace
The conference the week before had concluded with a list of ten advice for the future.
Lessons learned and recommendations
1. Offer comprehensive information programs for all immigrants –this is know from research from other countries (like Sweden) to be efficient and should be offered in all countries
2. Research the characteristics and needs of migrant communities
3. There should be systems and centres for recognizing skills and qualifications with access for everybody. An approach with integrated services from mixed partnership are needed here.
4. Deliver integrated and motivating learning programs relating to people’s needs. This offers chances to reach higher motivation.
5. Provide work experience placements – national systems with partnership with employers and trade unions are needed.
6. Form and sustain regional and local partnerships for these programs and initiatives
7. Supply specialist services (migrant research etc) and build capacity in mainstream and voluntary organisations.
8. Emphasise better protection at work – legal as well as technical/environmental.
9. Provide employers with IAG.
10. Disseminate positive images – Portraying individual as well as groups of immigrants ( During the Open Space session in the afternoon a selection of such portrays were displayed on NIACE rollup posters in the conference hall.)
Susan’s presentation was inspiring and at the end of the session there was time for comments by and together with the audience. Some of the questions brought up in the discussion were:
How do we involve the employers in these discussions?
Asylum seekers are kept away until they get a permit to stay – but they are keen and motivated to learn the new language and want to provide for themselves. It is therefore directly counter productive to treat them as less equal by not allowing them to take part in training as soon as they arrive.
It is important to challenge the stereotype pictures of immigrants in media with pictures that tell of success.
The integration project raised great interest among participants.