Helping refugee academics find jobs faster
[2016-03-22] Umeå University has been offering bridging programmes for foreign teachers for nearly ten years. In February 2016, the Government requested the University to offer a fast-track programme for newly arrived teachers and preschool teachers to find qualified jobs quicker – which is an important task for the University.
“The Government initiative is really a welcome step in the right direction,” says Irene Sedlacek, study adviser at the Department of Language Studies at Umeå University.
She has several years of experience in working with the further education of newly arrived teachers, for instance as the Umeå University representative in the national board of the bridging programme ULV – Utländska lärares vidareutbildning – offered at Umeå University since 2007. The idea is for the new fast-track programme to shorten the time before a bridging programme can start, for instance by commencing validation processes and Swedish education at an earlier stage to eventually find a job:
“At present, people spend a few years in Sweden before they even find out about ULV. To use this as motivation from the start would help,” says Irene Sedlacek.
The current further education for foreign teachers can be offered to a maximum of 120 credits and all students follow an individual curriculum where the education is customized to the individual’s needs and experiences according to Irene Sedlacek.
“The majority of participants are women who also often have responsibility over the home and family. Some also work full-time alongside their studies, which makes it hard. Sometimes it’s necessary to cut the speed down to 25 per cent so that the participants don’t give up along the way,” says Irene Sedlacek.
Out of the six universities collaborating on the ULV project, Umeå University has the significantly lowest number of students, despite the catchment area covering nearly all of north Sweden. Therefore, Umeå University has also been able to offer a more personal support to its ULV students in comparison to Stockholm University for instance, where nearly a hundred students are enrolled.
“Umeå University has 15–20 people enrolled right now, at various stages of their degree. The students come to Umeå two to three times per term and I try to meet with them all once per term. They need someone to spur them on; someone to turn to when times are rough,” says Irene Sedlacek.
She describes the students as highly motivated to finish their degrees and the number of students graduating as quite high, however finishing takes longer than a regular degree due to the reduced speed.
The Government’s new fast-track programme for teachers and preschool teachers has not been formalised yet. The university’s assignment that is expected from Arbetsförmedlingen, (the Swedish Public Employment Service), is something Irene Sedlacek is looking forward to.
“Being able to contribute to newly arrived teachers finding qualified jobs faster is a very important task for Umeå University. And today in particular, when the stream of refugees is constantly growing. We have to, and would like to, be prepared for this,” says Irene Sedlacek.
Text: Jonas Lidström & Camilla Bergvall
Translation: Anna Lawrence
Editor: Anna Lawrence
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