How language learning can lead to new opportunities

22.11.2010

An ongoing cooperation between EURES in the Swedish-speaking Åland Islands and a Germany-based language school is allowing skilled, unemployed German jobseekers to gain practical experience in a beautiful location. The Åland Islands in the Baltic Sea form a primarily Swedish-speaking region of Finland. The islands enjoy a relatively low rate of unemployment and a healthy economy – which means there is always the potential of work for qualified jobseekers coming from elsewhere in Europe.

Åland Islands-based EURES Adviser Suzanne Sjölund decided to take advantage of this by contacting Dr Rainer Schwenke, manager of Schwedenkontor (www. schwedenkontor.de), via a EURES colleague in Sweden. Schwedenkontor is a language school based in Greifswald, Germany, working closely with the local public employment service. By specialising in Scandinavian languages, the school aims to help send qualified, unemployed, German jobseekers to work in Sweden, or Swedish-speaking areas, Norway and Denmark.

The unemployment rate in the region around Greifswald remains quite high, so there was a need to find opportunities for jobseekers. Plans were made for Schwedenkontor to find German jobseekers willing to learn Swedish, and EURES to find employers in the Åland Islands willing to provide traineeships of up to six weeks, with the possibility of long-term employment. Jobseekers would have the opportunity to gain practical experience and improve their Swedish language skills, while employers would benefit from having skilled, motivated German workers. The only requirement was that the employer provide accommodation, to make the move that little bit easier for the jobseeker.

At the start of the cooperation, Dr Schwenke was invited to the Åland Islands to meet with Suzanne and 20 employers. Suzanne says that only employers who were actually searching for staff, and therefore had the capacity to potentially offer permanent employment, were invited to attend. ‘We wanted to make sure jobseekers were not being taken advantage of’, she explains. ‘Of course, it was always the employer’s choice whether or not to offer a permanent contract after the traineeship’.

In the beginning, six employers participated in this cooperation, in a variety of professions from truck drivers, to plumbers, to mechanics. After the traineeship, five trainees were offered permanent jobs and four remain living on the islands. Since then, more employers have agreed to take part and the cooperation with Schwedenkontor continues to this day. And, the original four trainees have obviously been spreading the word, as jobseekers have also approached Suzanne directly about opportunities on the islands. Over the years, eight to ten unemployed skilled German workers have found employment in the Åland Islands as a result of this cooperation.

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