Sweden has introduced a Fast Track program to quickly get migrants jobs in areas where there are a shortage of workers. Targeted at newcomers who already have skills and experience in areas of need, the program provides workplace training and language lessons, and creates a framework to recognise qualifications earned abroad. The training process leads to a job that fits participants’ skills and qualifications. Programs are currently available for teachers, medical professionals, chefs, social workers and social scientists.
Results & Impact
The program aims for migrants to be placed in meaningful employment that matches their skills within two years of arriving in Sweden. It allows those who have gained their qualifications in another country to quickly and securely become licensed in Sweden.
Swedish Public Employment Service, Swedish Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union, Visita, National Board of Health and Welfare, City of Stockholm, Swedish Teachers' Union, the National Union of Teachers, Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, Employers' Organisation for the Swedish Service Sector (Almega)
Partners including unions and industry representative bodies were invited to take part in discussions with the Swedish Employment Service and other agencies. They agreed on concessions and support that could be provided for new migrants, and worked to develop routes that would best prepare the new arrivals for the needs of the sector. Migrants are linked to work programs when they arrive in the country or at asylum centres.
Migrants, general public
Cost & Value
The government funding commitment to the fast-track budget was $42.6 million in 2016. That is estimated to rise to $60.2 million in 2017, followed by $47.8 million in 2018 and $38.4 million in 2019.
Running since 2015
Some trade representatives and unions have expressed concerns about the Fast Track and declined to participate. A construction workers’ union, Byggnads, reportedly argued that the fast track would compel companies to employ migrants over native workers because their places would be subsidised. It suggested that providing better training programs for all new employees might be a better option.
Sweden has introduced a Fast Track program to help new migrants break into the labour market, at the same time filling jobs that have a shortage of workers.
The program targets new immigrants who have experience in particular professions, and places them on a program of training and work experience that, if they are successful, will lead to a job opportunity. It allows those who have gained their qualifications in another country to quickly and securely become licensed in Sweden.
“We have a huge challenge with all the newcomers in Sweden right now, to help them into the labour market,” Ylva Johansson, Sweden’s Minister for Employment, said. “But we have the lucky position that we have a very strong economic growth and very high demand for employees.”
So far, the program has been implemented in catering and hospitality, healthcare, teaching, and social work. The first initiative, which targeted chefs, lowered the standard of Swedish language competence that workers needed to get a job, and created workplace assessments that could be completed in the applicant’s own language. The small changes made it easier for migrants to access work, and the Fast Track eventually aims to provide some of the 5,000 chefs it’s estimated the Swedish hospitality industry needs.
In the public sector, the healthcare Fast Track targets 21 professions including doctors, dentists and nurses.
Johansson believes there’s a key difference between the Fast Track scheme and previous attempts to integrate migrants into the labour market. Whereas other programs were piecemeal, the Fast Track is a tangible path to a career.
“We can see what we’ve been lacking in Sweden is this idea of tracks,” she explained. “We’ve been offering education, we’ve been offering courses, we’ve been offering practice. But we hadn’t formed the tracks.” By offering a coherent path in which multiple stakeholders work together to lay out the journey to an actual career, the program is getting success where other efforts have fallen down.
As well as addressing Sweden’s own workforce challenges the program addresses a particular difficulty faced by experienced and qualified migrants. Despite arriving in Sweden with useful skills, they often find their qualifications aren’t recognised, or struggle to break into the employment market without contacts or local knowledge. The program hopes to get these migrants into paying jobs within two years, while addressing profound staff shortages in crucial areas like teaching, medicine and social work.
The program also ensures that asylum seekers will be able to access Swedish language training in their government accommodation, and will introduce work-specific language training. Asylum seekers will also be given the option of an internship as well as an assigned mentor, guidance counsellor and language teacher.
Fast Track measures are developed in separate processes for each industry, in tripartite discussions with partners such as trade unions, industry representatives and public agencies. The discussions aim toward a common agreement on what concessions could be allowed for new migrants in the industry and what support different agencies would provide. According to Johansson, the proactive, organised efforts of the “social partners” who implemented the work programs with the government were critical to the program’s success.
Early stage tripartite discussions have been held with other industries and similar strategies are set to be employed in these areas. They include pharmaceuticals, tourism, manufacturing, transportation, wood processing, graphic design and construction. Other public agencies, such as the Swedish Council for Higher Education, have also participated in the discussions.
More recently, programs have targeted teachers and social workers. Newly arrived teachers are given an intensive study program in Swedish and shadow a Swedish teacher before completing an apprenticeship in a school. They can enter the program using the teaching qualifications they gained in their home country, documents that would not otherwise be recognised in Sweden.
Without the program professionals would have had to undergo a seven-year training to teach in Sweden. It’s a tough process which puts many off qualifying at all. Now they can get a job after two years, and it’s hoped that 60 new migrant teachers per year can be recruited to address the shortage that Stockholm is currently facing.
Some trade representatives and unions, however, have expressed concerns about the Fast Track and declined to participate. The country’s construction workers’ union, Byggnads, reportedly argued that it would compel companies to employ migrants because their places would be subsidised, at the cost of Swedish workers.
The involvement of social partners has also been a useful motivation for the public sector to improve its processes, Johansson said. “There are some criticisms toward the Public Employment Service. What we learn is the social partners are much quicker, more flexible and more focused on doing things,” she said. “The Public Employment Service is accused of being not so quick, not so flexible, and a little bit bureaucratic.”
The Swedish program is one of a raft of measures introduced by European governments to help integrate refugees and asylum seekers while addressing the needs of their own economies too.
(Picture credit: Flick/Olle Svensson)