Helms Jørgensen, C. Are apprenticeships inclusive of refugees? Experiences from Denmark. In L. Moreno Herrera, M. Teräs, P. Gougoulakis, & J. Kontio (Eds.), Migration and Inclusion in Work Life – The Role of VET. 2022. Atlas Akademi.
Context/purpose: The influx of a large number of young refugees in Europe during 2015–2016 drew attention to the role of vocational education and training (VET) in the integration of refugees. In Denmark, the VET system is based on the apprenticeship model, where most training is located in workplaces. Apprenticeships are internationally praised for their inclusiveness, as they provide direct access to employment for vulnerable learners. The research question examined in this chapter is what role apprenticeships play in the integration of immigrants and refugees. Special focus is placed on the recent development after the “refugee crisis” of 2015–2016 and the introduction of a new special apprenticeship programme for refugees in Denmark, known as Basic Integration Education (IGU).
Approach/Methods: First, this chapter reviews research on the capability of apprenticeships to include disadvantaged youth, and particularly research on ethnic minority students in apprenticeships. Next, it examines the political response to the refugee crisis and the process behind the introduction of the new apprenticeship programme, IGU, in Denmark. This study is based on analyses of key policy documents on the development of IGU, including official acts and documentation, evaluations, applied research publications and statistics. It also includes analyses of 11 individual interviews with key stakeholders in vocational schools, nongovernmental organisations and labour market organisations involved in the programme. The interviews conducted either face-to-face or by telephone and were recorded, transcribed and analysed for the description of two examples of how the IGU has been organised.
Findings/Results: Immigrants and refugees face some special barriers in apprenticeships, including problems of navigating a complex system, entrance requirements and access to apprenticeship contracts and to communities in workplaces. A special apprenticeship programme for refugees (IGU) was introduced in Denmark during a period with labour shortage, but also with new anti-immigration measures, which limited refugees’ access to apprenticeships. This chapter assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the IGU programme in the following five years and examines two successful examples of IGU programmes.
Conclusion/Key message: While apprenticeships are not particularly inclusive of ethnic minorities and refugees, the IGU programme for refugees is considered a success. The success is due to a tripartite agreement in 2016 that solved the critical issues concerning wages, apprenticeship contracts, certification, curriculum and governance. The IGU, however, also has some weaknesses, which make many refugees leave the programme before completion to shift into better-paid regular employment.