In the EME project, we have developed recommendations for various interest groups, such as practitioners working with migrants, educational institutions, project designers, and policymakers. Another important output of the EME project is recommended activities for promoting joint learning in transnational projects. Both kinds of recommendations are presented below.
Recommendations for interest groups
The first set of recommendations stems from the three projects (in Finland, Sweden, and Belgium) and transnational co-operation in the EME project. Although they focus mainly on the empowerment of job-seekers with a migrant background for work, they are recommendable also for other job-seekers as part of an inclusive and diversity-oriented approach.
1. A person-centred approach is needed for supporting job-seekers with a migrant background on their path toward employment
A person-centred approach can be implemented in many ways. This recommendation highlights its importance in relation to counselling, vocational training, and resources.
Migrant-background job-seekers with a low education level and low levels of working-life and local-language skills need individualised, long-term guidance starting early on their path toward employment. They have individual-specific needs, which should be fulfilled by one-on-one counselling with a person-oriented approach. Thus, persons with a migration background create a connection with the society and its various systems, such as education and the labour market, which is an important step if one is to become employed and/or follow a training programme.
The person’s ability to work and study, state of health, and language development should be charted and documented. Job-seekers with a migration background should be guided to the right services in accordance with their skills and interests. This should prevent long‑term unemployment and returning to the same service repeatedly.
Recognition and valorisation of competencies should be a starting point in counselling that leads job-seekers with a migrant background toward vocational training. These competencies must also be further valorised during vocational training. It helps the participants to gain self-confidence and take new steps to strengthen themselves professionally. There should be training programmes that take into account informal experience and prior learning of people with a foreign background.
There should be more resources for the counselling of job-seekers with a migrant background. Ideally, the guidance counsellors should be permanent instead of project‑based actors, and the job-seeker with a foreign background would only have to visit one accessible, low-threshold office to get all the guidance (s)he needs.
2. Peer tutoring should be utilised in empowering people with a migrant background for employment
A recommended way to empower migrant-background job-seekers with a low education level and low levels of working-life skills is to organise peer groups. In peer groups, job‑seekers with a migration background can find their own path toward work or training. ‘Peerness’ enables the group members to learn from each other, to share information and experiences, and to feel supported in a safe space and ‘not be alone’. The peer group combines individual-specific and group guidance.
The peer groups can be guided by trained working-life tutors with a migration background and experience of job-seeking and working life. The working-life tutors’ own experience of learning the language, seeking work, and other possible challenges helps them to better understand the participants’ situation. Therefore, more people with a migrant background should be trained to work also as counsellors for other job-seekers with a foreign background.
For an ability to offer up-to-date information about job-seeking and adult-education services in the peer groups, it is recommended that the trained working-life tutors guide the groups in pairs with a professional counsellor. Since the commitment of the working‑life tutors is important, financial recognition of their work should be provided.
3. Trade unions should take an active role in enhancing the employability of job-seekers with a migrant background
Today, working life is increasingly diverse. This diversity should be reflected in the employment of people with a migration background and also in the trade-union community. Therefore, it is paramount that new employees with a migrant background recognise the role of trade unions.
There are differences in the role of trade unions between countries, but usually trade unions aim at empowering people to improve their work conditions and increasing their understanding of the collective strength of organising. Trade unions can promote the employment of people with a migrant background by inviting them to join in the promotion of their working-life interests.
Workplaces and trade-union actors should be offered diversity training to enable the inclusion of people with a migration background in workplace networks and culture. The training could increase their awareness of cultural differences and stimulate inclusive communication in the workplace, a respectful attitude, and learning from each other.
Trade unions also keep communities and educational institutions informed. The most important focus for trade unions is their members and union branches in the workplace. An important goal of trade unions is to promote diversity in work communities.
4. The employer perspective, rather than missing abilities, should be highlighted
Employers should take responsibility for introduction of a migrant-background employee to the work and also to the society. Highlighting the employer perspective and things that are needed from every employee for working in a particular workplace is a non-discriminatory way to help a person with a foreign background understand how the society works. This way, the development that the person with a migrant background needs to do before becoming employed can be discussed without the conversation becoming personal assessment of whether (s)he is good enough or not. Employers should be aware of cultural differences and stimulate inclusive communication in the workplace.
5. Implementation of the project results requires support, collaboration, and commitment
Transnational projects focused on joint learning can have a transformative impact on the national organisation. Implementing the lessons learned in a transnational project requires commitment from co-workers and the managers of project partners’ organisations to the aims of the project. Otherwise, the project results may not be utilised in the organisation. Support from transnational project partners and collaboration between them are needed also in changing the structures and ways of working in the organisation.
6. Development projects should include systematic follow-up and evaluation research
Development projects aimed at social change should include systematic follow-up and evaluation. The follow-up and evaluation research is especially important in projects wherein good practices are shared transnationally.
Firstly, the research knowledge collected in the projects can be used to develop the functionality of the project activities and models. Secondly, research aids in further developing the methods of joint learning among professionals working with the target group. Engaging all project partners in the research process can promote co-development and self-understanding of the project and its activities. Thirdly, the research results may make the importance of the practitioners’ work more visible and can be utilised in political decision-making.
The research can be carried out in various ways based on needs and the available resources – for example, as participative follow-up, quantitative surveys, or qualitative interviews. Optimally, research funding should be allocated also for the time after the project: this would enable evaluation of the long-term impact of the project and dissemination of the results.
Recommended activities for promoting joint learning in transnational projects
These recommendations are based on research implemented as part of the EME project involving Finland, Belgium, and Sweden. The research data were collected in the transnational meetings via observation, surveys, pitch evaluations, and qualitative focus‑group work. The project was aimed at enhancing joint learning about socially inclusive and empowering practices targeted at job-seeking migrants. The main work methods were five transnational meetings (with study visits and seminars) and the mapping, exchange, and peer evaluation of good practices. These recommendations can be applied in any transnational project aimed at joint learning, not only in migration-related work.
Learning is a continuous process that, optimally, lasts throughout the project – and beyond. These recommendations focus mainly on the transnational face-to-face meetings held during the project in Belgium, Sweden, and Finland. However, the transnational collaboration should also include online events, as were organised increasingly in response to the COVID-19 restrictions. To support the continuous learning process, it is important to have a combination of various work approaches and methods.
1. Co-ordinate and facilitate the learning process
Maintaining a continuous learning process and the commitment of the project participants throughout the project demands co-ordination and facilitation. This includes, for instance, careful planning of the various activities (e.g., workshops and seminar programmes) and communicating with the project participants about the current issues of the project. To keep the project participants motivated and engaged with the collaboration, the project co‑ordinators should apply and strengthen their expertise and should give them some tasks and project materials between meetings. This way, driving the project forward becomes a shared responsibility of all project participants. It is important also that the project participants be able to reach the project co-ordinators with a low threshold.
2. Build community spirit in face-to-face meetings
It is important to get to know the other project participants at the beginning of the project and to build a favourable learning environment in which everyone can be committed. This could be facilitated by both offering space for informal discussions between project participants and by arranging various ‘icebreaker’ exercises. The exercises should be participative, to build contact and trust among project participants. In the EME project, the icebreaker exercises helped to create a relaxed and positive group atmosphere.
3. Create familiarity with the country context and the local operation environment
To understand the context of the project partners, it is important for one to get an impression of their work environment already at the beginning of the collaboration. In the EME project, the experiential activities, such as theme-related visits, city tours, lunch breaks, and dinners, appeared fruitful. When the project participants see the environment concretely with their own eyes, experience the environment, and reflect on it, they can also find inspiration for their own work.
4. Share information among the project participants
In addition to experiential learning, knowledge-based activities are needed for forming an overall picture of the characteristics of the project partners’ work context. The EME project included lectures about the country context by local experts, national projects, and good practices. Visualisations and pictures were found especially useful in outlining the national projects and good practices, alongside their connections to the realities in which the projects operate. Sharing preparatory material or giving advance assignments before the face-to-face events appeared helpful in orienting the project participants to the seminar and building a basis for the joint learning.
5. Involve the target-group perspective
The projects focusing on a specific target group (e.g., job-seeking migrants) should include activities that involve the target-group perspective and put project participants ‘in the target group’s shoes’. In the EME project, project participants completed the practical exercises that were used in the national projects with the target group. Completing these activities themselves has been eye-opening for the project participants and gave them a different angle from which to examine the project activities. Also, giving the target-group representatives an opportunity to have their voice heard, share their personal stories, and guide the exercises may be empowering for them. It is important to reflect on the meaning of the exercises with the project participants.
6. Use methods that enable sharing, applying, and creating knowledge
To deepen the processing of the project-related themes, the projects should have space for activities that enable sharing, applying, and creating knowledge together. One specific activity that proved to be very fruitful for that purpose in the EME project involved the ‘learning café’ method. In this method, the project participants are divided into small groups that rotate from table to table and discuss various project-related themes. Themes for discussion might be, for instance, the aims of the project, good practices, or some specific cases. The advantage of the learning café method is that it emphasises co-creative and development-oriented learning wherein the project participants can apply their own expertise. Documentation and sharing of the outputs of the learning café session among all project participants would be important for ensuring that the outputs can be used in further work.
7. Invest in reflection
For promoting and making visible the joint and individual-level learning throughout the project, it would be crucial to allocate time and space both for formal and for informal reflection and experience-sharing. The project participants should be encouraged to ask questions and share their thoughts and experiences during the face-to-face events. This could be done through formal activities but also through informal activities by providing the project participants with free time to discuss their thoughts amongst themselves. That would enable deeper understanding of various aspects of the project and its activities, along with comparison of them to one’s own national context.
In the EME project, reflection took place both informally during the breaks between seminar-programme activities and more formally in arranged reflection sessions. At the end of each transnational seminar, there was a round in which each project participant had an opportunity to share what that participant him- or herself gained from the seminar and what was the best way for him or her to learn. Thus, the project participants could learn from each other’s experiences and create joint understanding about the theme of the seminar.
8. Make use of distance/online working
In projects aimed at transnational learning, the activity must not be limited to face-to-face events alone. Distance or online work should be organised also for between face-to-face meetings, to increase commitment and drive the collaboration forward. Distance or online working is also an alternative to face-to-face meetings especially when travel is restricted. In response to the COVID-19 situation, the ways of collaborating in the EME project had to be reorganised by means of online platforms, online meetings, and workshops. Digital learning platforms used online have been especially useful in sharing and evaluating the national good practices among the project partners. Examples of online platforms that have been good are Howspace and Padlet.