The project ALMIT - Acceleration of labour market integration of immigrants through mapping of skills and trainings, aims at faster integration of migrants into the labour market and overcoming language and cultural barriers between migrants and local population.
The target group of the project are adult migrants who are legally residing in the countries covered by the project (Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia and Austria) and who have expressed their intention to obtain asylum in these countries. Activities with migrants within ALMIT project include mapping their professional qualifications and previous work experience, organizing trainings that are in line with their profile, recognition and evaluation of competencies acquired and advising them on job search.
Through the project, participants involved in activities in Serbia have the opportunity to attend Serbian language classes and to go through intercultural and civic education sessions, as a basic prerequisite for finding a job in Serbia. In addition to educational activities, the project also provides individual support.
The ALMIT project is funded by the European Union through the Employment and Social Innovation Programme (EaSI). Partners from these four countries are participating in the project, while the National Project Team in Serbia is comprised of the Belgrade Open School organisation, the Municipality of Šid and the Charity Foundation of the Serbian Orthodox Church "Philanthropy".
On this occasion, we spoke with Ivan Topalović, project Coordinator and Marija Milosavljević, Assistant Trainee, from the Belgrade Open School (BOŠ), who shared with us experiences from the implementation of this project in Serbia.
Tell us for a start, what age and nationality are the beneficiaries of the ALMIT project in Serbia?
- The largest number of participants involved in the ALMIT project is between the ages of 25 and 35, while the project includes beneficiaries between the ages of 18 and 45. The majority of participants are from Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, but there are also people from Burundi, Somalia, India, Cuba and other countries. Currently, over 150 people are involved in the project in Serbia and activities are being implemented in two asylum centres, in Bogovađa and Tutin, as well as in the Reception Centre in Šid.
Can you briefly explain how migrants' skills are mapped and profiled within the project?
The data is collected through group and individual work with migrants, as well as through the use of the EU Skills Profile Tool for Third Country Nationals, which offers assistance to refugees and migrants from non-EU countries. The advantage of this tool is that it allows working in the migrants’ native languages. During our training, we have used this platform as well as the platform that was created for the needs of the project and can be found on the website almit.rs. These tools help us to map the skills, qualifications and experiences of individuals.
The project is in line with global initiatives aiming at developing, testing and implementing innovative mapping mechanisms, as well as creating and delivering training to support fast integration of migrants into the labour market, applying the successful approaches and lessons learned from initiatives already implemented in Austria and Spain.
How did you develop the methodology for working with migrants on this project? Is the methodology you have developed applicable in a different context, that is, with other target groups?
We can say that the work program is fully aligned with the needs of migrants, which are recognized through years of experience working with the migrant population that consortium member organizations have.
So, prior to the process which includes individual work with the migrants and use of the platform, a curriculum was created for learning the national language of the country where the migrants currently reside, as well as a curriculum for civic and intercultural education. Various experts were involved in the development of this materials - pedagogues, andragogists, psychologists and language teachers in all member countries of the project consortium.
The material is created to directly fit the needs of the trainees, and sometimes the content is being agreed with them, taking into account their situation. The trainees communicate their educational needs directly, so this approach is also applicable in working with other vulnerable groups.
All material is publicly available and it can be found on almit.rs. We believe that it is also possible to use it in working with other target groups, with modifications according to the specificities of the target group.
Which training courses have been organised? Which areas of knowledge were in demand the most?
We would like to point out that prior to the trainings for immigrants, trainings for facilitators of the learning process and trainers conducting the trainings were organized.
When it comes to language learning, teaching units are designed to be of the greatest practical benefit to the trainees, and they include coping with everyday situations (in-store, at the bus station, at the hospital, etc.). The participants had the opportunity to learn about culture, but also about content that could be useful to them in the context of job search. They were presented with the following topics: human rights, human trafficking, the rule of law and social protection, employment, health care system, social security, education in the modern world, work and job - rights and responsibilities. It also covered the areas that aroused the most interest: the job market and job opportunities, job search, volunteer work and NGOs, CV and motivation letter writing lessons, and others.
Career counselling is the part of working with migrants within the ALMIT project. Can you tell us how do you see the importance of career counselling as an integration factor?
The migrant population currently residing in reception centres is generally not expecting (or rarely who is expecting) to find the job for which they have educated for in their country of origin. Language and cultural barriers, as well as the perennial status of migrants in which they were unable to work, they see as a major problem for them.
During 2019, a consolidated report was prepared with data from consortium member countries on the ALMIT project. This report contains information such as labour market trends, status of economic social and industrial infrastructure, economic programs and regulations, career guidance and counselling services, upskilling and reskilling of workers initiatives/opportunities, employment funds, etc.
In its work, the ALMIT project focuses more on career information services, with the aim of informing the migrants about their current opportunities in the country. Individual counselling and guidance will be carried out in the next stages of the project.
Do you have information about the extent to which the project affected the integration of the migrants covered? Could you give an example of some of the project beneficiaries that you have helped to find their way?
At this phase of the project, trainings and group counselling are still being implemented, so the focus is still not on finding a job. The next steps are individual counselling, working with the business community and connecting migrants and the business community. Because of this, it is still too early to predict how many of them will be able to get a job.
However, during the training some of the participants have already managed to get a job. We have an example of a migrant woman, one of our beneficiaries, who started working as a hairdresser in Tutin. She has participated in workshops since day one and has been one of the most active participants.
We believe that education itself must be a higher goal than current employment. For example, one of the trainees from Bogovađa centre came to Serbia without any previous education. In the country of origin, he did not have the opportunity to attend school and this is a rare opportunity for him to engage in educational activities, and we can say that he is one of the most regular and engaged participants.
As we consider education and the learning process to be a prerequisite for all other steps, the project will continue to organize workshops, believing that the acquired knowledge will be of benefit regardless of the country in which the migrants will settle and continue their lives.
In your opinion, what policies and system solutions need to be improved in order for adult education to have greater effect on the integration of migrants into society?
The biggest problems that migrants face in this process are the lack of evidence of their previous education, lack of educational opportunities in their countries of origin, as well as cultural differences between their countries of origin and destination.
The system of validation of prior learning and acquired knowledge of persons from the migrant population needs to be improved. Currently, there are not enough adequately trained educators able to teach adult migrants Serbian as a foreign language. Although there are manuals that facilitate the process, we believe that in the future it would be useful to have a system of learning Serbian as a foreign language for adults planning to start living in Serbia. This applies not only to migrants in this context, but also to nationals of all countries.
Educational systems need to be more flexible and to focus more on transferable competences than on the content provided in the curriculum. Many jobs will be transformed in the future, and many others will disappear, and it is essential to promote lifelong learning as a concept of living in the present time and in the future. In this context, the emphasis will be on competencies rather than the adult education system itself.
Migrations are something that has been going on for centuries and should be seen as an opportunity for the improvement of existing cultures. Integration must be easier and in line with human rights, although unfortunately we see that there are some situations when this is not the case.