FIER - Fast Track Integration in European Regions
“FIER” means “proud” in French, and is the abbreviation for “Fast-track Integration in European Regions,” a two-year project funded under the European Commission’s EaSI PROGRESS programme, coordinated by Region Västra Götaland (Sweden). The project aims at developing instruments and strategies for a fast-track labour market integration of shortly-educated refugees and asylum-seekers, identifying common challenges and successful ways, including examples from the EU but also from Norway and Turkey.
In this context, project partners introduced their work at the European Week of Regions and Cities 2018 through an interactive panel and video presentations. The panel was moderated by FIER coordinator Therese Ydrén, who also 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 non-existant, 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 for an “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!, 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 (Social Work) who arrived to Belgium as a 13‑year-old unaccompanied minor. Mr. Shinwari explained the obstacles he faced in 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.
During the event, 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 displayed during the workshop, showing examples of their work and explaining the topics they cover under FIER.
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.
Take away message
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 for success.
"A key factor for success in labour market integration is developing activities with the refugees – not for the refugees. Working face-to-face with people and acknowledging their skills makes a huge difference if you want to have sustainability in your work, and you want it to be legitimate".