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A way into the Danish labour market

Danish Adult Education Association (DAEA) is an umbrella organisation (NGO) catering for 34 countrywide member organisations, all working with non-formal adult education.
In cooperation with a number of member organisations, DAEA has launched the initiative “Non-formal learning for refugees”. The purpose of the initiative is to draw attention to the mane existing activities, to share knowledge and experience and inspire others, to take part in the public debate in favor of human equality and active citizenship.


‘What have you previously worked with? What are you good at?’

There is an air of deep concentration in the classroom, where the 17 course participants, who are refugees from Syria, Eritrea or Iran, are being taught how to write a CV.  They know that they need to make a serious effort with this in order to increase their chances of getting an internship, which could eventually lead to what they are all aspiring for: A real job.

The course is one component of an integration project that the Danish municipality of Esbjerg and FOF Esbjerg offers refugees. The project consists of 13 weeks of vocationally-oriented training, which focuses on helping the participants become part of the Danish labour market. The training is subsequently followed up with 13 weeks of internships at various local businesses.


Workplace culture

“We are committed to helping our participants learn what kind of culture they are expected to become a part of,” explained Lillian Møller Jensen, Principal at FOF Esbjerg.

“We teach them about Danish customs and cultural practices in the workplace. We even touch on the more mundane aspects, such as the importance of showing up on time. We also explain how to socialise with people of the opposite sex in Danish culture, and broader national values such as gender equality, freedom of speech and democracy.  The participants are very curious about the Danes and their way of life.”

“They come from a culture where everyone must fend for themselves, so it’s difficult for them to understand our welfare model with taxes, public services and the Danes’ sense of a national community which takes care of its weakest members. So we do our best to equip them with the knowledge they need to fit in with Danish society, and the general sentiment is that they are really happy to have participated in this project,” she added.


Being able to feed his own family

Back in the classroom, the participants have now finished putting together their CVs. One of the participants, Saad, shared his hopes for life in Denmark:

“I would like to work as a teacher in a school. I come from Syria, and before I was forced to flee the war I worked as an English teacher for 14 years. So I really want to learn to speak Danish at a high enough level to study and obtain the qualifications I need in order to teach here in Denmark and feed my family,” he said, although he did not hesitate to share what his biggest dream is:

 “I hope the war in Syria ends soon, because when the war is over, I’d like to return home.” However, for the time being, Saad is looking forward to his upcoming internship at a school where he will be assigned to the ‘reception classes’ (‘modtagerklasser’), which are for children who cannot speak Danish.


From internships to permanent employment

Aladdin, who used to work as a butcher in Syria, is an example of how an internship can eventually lead to a job. He got an internship at the slaughterhouse company Theilgaard, where he made such a good impression that he has now been employed through a governmental wage subsidy scheme.

The owner, Viggo Theilgaard, is so pleased with Aladdin’s work that he intends to hire him as a permanent employee:

“Aladdin is really motivated and he does great work.  Of course, it does require an extra effort from us to train someone with a limited proficiency in Danish, but it’s been worth it in Aladdin’s case. I’m also prepared to take on another refugee if I can find the right candidate,” said Theilgaard, who in 2012 won a prestigious industry award, ‘Årets Æresslagter’. 



The project is the result of a cooperation agreement between Jobcenter Esbjerg and FOF Esbjerg.

The aim is to get the participants into regular employment, an educational course/programme, or closer to the labour market in some other fashion. For 13 weeks, the course participants have lessons twice weekly on the Danish labour market and society as well as labour market-oriented language lessons and how to go about job-seeking. The course is a labour market-oriented additional component to the Danish lessons the participants are already taking at the local language centre three days a week.

This is followed up with a 13-week internship. FOF Esbjerg helps identify appropriate internship positions at local businesses.   

In 2015, 40 refugees completed the 26-week process, while twice as many are expected to do so in 2016.



Lillian Møller Jensen, FOF Esbjerg     lmj@fof-esbjerg.dk  Tel. +45 75123805


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Danish Adult Education Association (DAEA)
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