Specialist skills among new arrivals lift Swedish companies

29 April 2016

There is talk of a refugee crisis, but the fact that so many people choose to come to Sweden also means great opportunities for Swedish companies. Recent figures have shown that approximately two-thirds of new arrivals are under the age of 40, and thus in prime working age. This talent pool features many of the various specialist skills that the business community is in great need of.

“Foreign-born labor is needed to fill the gap in specialist skills on the labor market,” says Per Ibertsson, operations coordinator for Integration and Establishment at the Swedish Public Employment Service.

The authority works, in various ways, to utilize the skills of new arrivals. Last year a pilot project for early mapping of skills started to identify the educational and professional background of asylum seekers. The program has continued in 2016.

Several Swedish companies have found new ways to obtain the professional staff they need.

Nordic Choice Hotels offers internships to asylum seekers in cooperation with the Swedish Migration Board. For a hotel chain with many overseas customers, service-minded personnel with language skills are far more important attributes than any information contained in a resume. One profession that many hotels seek is talented chefs.

“One of the trainees started working as a breakfast host in the kitchen. But we soon realized that he had experience as a chef and had managed a restaurant in his home country of Syria. Now he has been permanently employed as a chef at the hotel,” says Ann Ekengren, HR Manager Sweden & Finland.

Skanska also takes on trainees. The company uses ILP, an international leadership program that is part of the Swedish Public Employment Service's effort to match employers with long-term unemployed foreign university graduates. More than 70 percent of the trainees have found employment with Skanska.

“We have found structural engineers with global experience from working on major construction projects in different countries. They have the knowledge, the language they can learn later,” says Monica Westerberg, Diversity Manager at Skanska Sweden.

The government has now started “Fast track” for newcomers to help them establish themselves and find jobs in industries where there is a labor shortage. The goal is to shorten the time from arrival to employment. It serves the business community, the individual and society as well.

“The Fast track removes the long waiting times. The skills come first and when you have found a job, you can start learning Swedish,” says Jasenko Omanovic, MP (S).

Jasenko Omanovic has seen firsthand the consequences of unemployment. He fled to Sweden from the war in the Balkans, and during the long wait at the reception center there was absolutely nothing to do. Later he got a position as a work advisor and today he is a member of the Labor, Industry and Trade Committee in the Swedish Parliament.

“Competence has no age, gender or ethnicity. I am proud that Sweden takes responsibility in the present situation around the world today,” says Kristian Andersson MultMind.

Text: Maria Lindberg Howard