From competence match to long-lasting employment
Public authorities, companies and refugees are all eager to create successful competence-based matches with regard to employment. This is QVARTZ’ observation via numerous activities and collaborations since the beginning of 2016, aimed at helping refugees find employment. However, we have also observed widespread difficulty in transforming this eagerness for an initial match – e.g. through an internship – into long-lasting employment to the benefit of the refugee, the company and society as a whole. To explore why this is, we wish to reflect upon and share the lessons we have learnt through our collaborations with other companies, non-profit organisations, public authorities and the refugees themselves.
Between 2014 and the first quarter of 2017, more than 40,000 asylum seekers have come to Denmark1 – and many have been, or will be, granted asylum. Several actors, incl. QVARTZ, have emphasised that this influx of new people to Denmark holds a huge potential for new competences. Yet, despite significant progress, much of this potential remains unrealised. Fully realising the potential requires a collective effort by a range of actors. The public authorities play an important role in terms of minimising unnecessary barriers for refugees to enter the workforce, e.g. by allowing asylum seekers to be allocated to the municipalities where there is a demand for their competences. The refugees themselves need to learn Danish (or as a minimum English) and adjust to a new culture in- and outside of work. Meanwhile, the companies who want to benefit from this potential need to think and act beyond their usual practices and processes when hiring a new employee. While successful integration requires efficient collaboration between several actors: the public authorities and civil society as well as companies and the individual refugees, this perspective zooms in on the latter two pieces of the puzzle.
A strong willingness among companies to go the extra mile
There are numerous examples of companies wanting to help refugees integrate into the Danish workforce. The Danish think tank Monday Morning has identified 44 examples of grass root employment-related initiatives as part of their mapping of successful Danish integration efforts (Integrationens Danmarkskort). The number of companies in the business network Together for Integration (Sammen om integration) is growing, now counting ~200 companies of various sizes across industries2. Meanwhile, companies are increasingly taking advantage of opportunities to hire refugees. For example, as of April 2017, 466 “IGU”-procedures (a combination of business education, language training and practical experience) have been registered with the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI) – of which more than 70 have been registered in the past months. The number of refugees in internships or state-supported jobs have almost doubled during 20164. All of this signals a clear improvement in terms of integrating refugees into the Danish workforce.
Continued challenges in securing long-term employment
The many initiatives aimed at preparing and qualifying refugees for the Danish workforce are highly relevant considering the high motivation to work among the refugees we have engaged with, and especially among newly arrived asylum seekers. However, despite this mutual willingness, most employment opportunities for refugees turn out to be only temporary. As an example, only 7 out of 100 refugees still have a job three months after a completed internship – and the number only increases to 12 out of 100 after six months. All of this bears witness to a seemingly systematic challenge of turning initial competence matching into long-lasting employment. The above statistics are confirmed by QVARTZ’ own experiences with hiring refugees as interns, along with the companies and refugees we have interviewed and worked with. In our experience, companies often highlight a lack of balancing expectations, while the refugees find it difficult to prove their worth on the labour market.
A new game plan
Through insights from companies – our own included – and refugees who have sought to create successful employment relations, we here present a new game plan to guide companies on how to create long-lasting employment. The plan contains seven concrete pieces of advice, which we wish we had known when venturing into this unchartered territory more than a year ago, hiring one asylum seeker and one refugee as interns in our company. The core values at QVARTZ revolve around Results and Relations – to have the former, you must nurture the latter; and vice versa. Creating the foundation for a long-lasting relation between the employer and (in this case) the refugee employee requires a set of important considerations and practical steps that we would like to share our perspectives on – and further develop in cooperation with others. This publication is by no means an exhaustive list of do’s and don’ts, nor is it the result of deep scientific research. Rather, it is a perspective based on our own lived experience, and thus we do not claim to represent all companies or all refugees. However, we hope to further a necessary dialogue about a societal challenge we all have a stake in tackling – and a societal challenge where we all can win.
Up for a chat about long-term employment?
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Be the change Upon completing his university studies, Aiman went on to start several successful businesses in Norway. However, the massive refugee crisis set off by the Arab Spring made Aiman want to contribute on a larger scale.