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The internship programme offering new arrivals a 'headstart' in the Swedish job market

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The internship programme offering new arrivals a 'headstart' in the Swedish job market
The programme is open primarily to immigrants from outside the EU with a university degree in a range of fields. Photo: Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT
06:00 CEST+02:00
Three years after its launch, an internship programme targeted at new immigrants in Sweden has led to over two thirds of its interns gaining permanent employment.

The idea behind the programme was to help immigrants enter the labour market much quicker than the five to ten years it typically takes after arriving in Sweden, according to the Swedish Confederation of Enterprise. By reducing that time, the Royal Academy of Engineering Sciences aimed to help skilled new arrivals find work in their field while offering employers a way of plugging skills shortages with talent already in the country.

Saroja Kandula is one of those who found an internship, and now a full-time job, through the Jobbsprånget programme. She came to Sweden from India in late 2018 after her husband got a job here, but when she started her own job search, she found it hard to get a foot in the door.

Despite having a degree in computer science engineering and three years' work experience, she found that most full-time positions required Swedish skills which, after just a few months, she didn't yet have.

"I had a plan to search for work or an internship, I was also trying to apply for a Masters' because I didn't want to sit idle," she told The Local.

Kandula heard about the Jobbsprånget programme through Facebook, and after applying, she got interviews and eventually internship offers from two companies in Gothenburg, and accepted an internship with manufacturing company SKF.

She was recently offered a permanent job there once her internship ends.

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"Sweden's work environment is very friendly. If you want to do something, the culture is ready to test things so you can try out new ideas," Kandula says of her experience.

Like many internationals, she has found that socializing and networking is key to career progression in Sweden, and for this she has been working on Swedish skills. "The language is important if you have long-term plans. Fika at work is helpful because it gives people a reason to socialize and have small conversations, and I've joined SFI," she says.

Entry to the programme requires a high level of English and does not include formal Swedish language training, but according to organizers, the idea is that most interns will be able to significantly improve their Swedish language skills simply through fika breaks and chatting to colleagues.

Saroja Kandula came to Sweden in late 2018 and has now been offered a permanent job after carrying out an internship. Photo: Jobbsprånget

Jobbsprånget was first launched in 2016, initially targeting only engineers with a focus on those who had recently arrived in Sweden from outside Europe. The majority of interns in the first year came from Syria and Iraq.

Since then, it has been expanded to include internships for newcomers with a degree in engineering, economics, science, architecture, and engineering, with a continued focus on new arrivals from outside Europe. 

There is no salary offered for interns, but they receive allowances from the Swedish Public Employment Agency as the internship is considered part of their route to work. Petra Bunsop, a strategist at Swedavia, says that one big benefit for her company was that the scheme works with all the necessary paperwork with the Public Employment Service around hiring new arrivals, making it easier than going through a typical probation period.

Swedavia has taken on seven interns and hired five of them full-time. ""We, like many other companies today, have challenges in finding relevant competence and we need to work in many different ways to ensure the skills we need. And Jobbsprånget helps us to reach out and get in contact with recently arrived talents," Bunsop said.

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Swedavia is one of 150 participating employers across the country, including private and public sector companies of varying sizes.

"For the interns it's primarily a speedy entry to the Swedish job market," explains Alexandra Ridderstad, who runs the Jobbsprånget programme in Sweden. ""It is a huge chance to show the employer one's potential and gain Swedish experience within one's area of expertise, and last but not least get a Swedish professional network.

"For the employers, they get to meet so many talented people that are not yet on the Swedish job market, and they get to know people from other backgrounds, to get new insights and perspectives," Ridderstad adds.

When asked about the steps taken to ensure the internships remain productive for participants, she says there is an ongoing evaluation process for both interns and employers, and that so far the results have been positive. 

Almost three quarters of participants (70 percent) have been offered employment once the internship is over, making it a much speedier entry to the workforce than is typical for immigrants. For those who don't receive a job offer, the hope is that the experience will give them Swedish references and a professional network as well as an understanding of how their industry works in Sweden.

This figure came as a positive surprise to Ridderstad. "We didn´t know what to expect but we are so happy that 70 percent actually are offered an employment. After four months!"

 
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