Numan Oksas, a software engineer from Turkey who moved to Sweden to join his mother and father, felt similarly marooned. “When I came to Sweden in early 2020, I was a fish out of water,” he says. “My educational background seemed to make no difference. I was a janitor, a waiter, a lot of those kinds of jobs. It was dark, cold and I was depressed. I just stayed at home, ate, watched TV, did nothing. I couldn’t network because of the pandemic. I just thought, ‘why did I come here?’”
Sweden has often been described as one of the toughest job markets for newcomers to negotiate. It’s not unusual for international arrivals to take years to nail down a job. Telish and Numan’s experiences are sadly not rare. But now Telish is a product requirement engineer at IKEA, and Numan is a quality assurance software engineer at Telia.
Solving the Swedish jobs riddle
So what changed? How did they figure out that ultimate Swedish riddle – the newcomers’ job market?
Their secret is that they enrolled with Jobbsprånget, a nationwide government-sponsored programme that offers internships to university-educated newcomers in Sweden. The internships are for four months, with 60 percent of those who successfully complete an internship ending up in employment (the figure was actually 70 percent before the pandemic).
Numan, who lives in Gothenburg, found Jobbsprånget when he was trawling the internet looking for tips on how to network. “I was researching how to network in Sweden. ‘How do I find the right people, how do I find jobs? Should I study more, should I try the labour market again?’ I was pretty dispirited. But then Jobbsprånget popped up. A lot of networking platforms offer connections to people in the labour market for advice or mentorship, but only Jobbsprånget offered something concrete – chances to apply for internships.”
But, as Numan confirms, it doesn’t just offer any old internships.
“Through Jobbsprånget I applied for 20 internships and got one with Telia,” he says. “They didn’t treat me as your typical intern. They gave me assignments to work on and I really felt as though I was a valuable member of the team. It was real work. Not just making coffee and fetching lunch. These are proper internships. Even if you have ten years of experience, you’re going to be given real work that pushes you.”
Jobbsprånget is targeted at English-speaking, non-European graduates looking for work in Sweden and offers a fast-track route to accessing career paths that had seemed blocked. The programme is in English so if you haven’t mastered Swedish yet, don’t worry. But it is essential that you have a degree in engineering, architecture, science or business, and that you’re registered at Sweden’s Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen).
It’s targeted at people born outside Europe and the EU in order to follow Arbetsförmedlingen’s rules for internships. If you have any queries about your eligibility to participate, you can find out more about the requirements here.
‘I’m not a person who will just sit at home’
Telish’s self-esteem was particularly bruised by the lack of action on the job front after first arriving in Sweden with high hopes.
“I was a production planning engineer for Yokohama Tyres in India,” she says. “It was a good job and I was good at it. But then I moved to Älmhult in southern Sweden with my husband who had a job with IKEA. All my friends thought it would be easy for me to get a job with my experience. But it was not. It was frustrating and depressing because I’m not a person who will just sit at home and do house chores. I need mental stimulation.”
She was worried at first that Jobbsprånget would only offer IT internships. “But it didn’t,” she says. “That was so refreshing. There were plenty of opportunities for non-IT applicants. It’s also great that it’s all in English. I’ve tried to learn Swedish but it’s quite a difficult language. I am 50 to 70 percent there, but it’s great that the Jobbsprånget platform is in English.”
Telish applied for several internships including Volvo and Tetra Pak and was taken on by IKEA. “I had some good experience in planning, and I used this skill regularly during the internship,” she says. “I also had some ideas to reuse and to recycle stuff that they really liked because the whole company is now geared to sustainability. It was a good match.”
Numan believes Jobbsprånget has changed his life in Sweden for the better. “Jobbsprånget really helped me a lot,” he says. “It gave me the tools I needed to find work, and the work itself improved my skills. Jobbsprånget showed me the road ahead.”