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SEP in a Nutshell

Persecution, conflicts, human rights violations, and climate changes continue to force people to flee their homes and seek safety in the EU.

In 2018 only, an estimated 634.700 asylum applications were registered compared to 728.400 in 2017 and 1.3 million in 2016 (Eruostat:2020). This number will potentially grow due to the changing politics of Turkey and as an aftermath of the prevailing Covid-19 crisis, which will lead to worsening economic conditions for refugees globally.

Many are here to stay and the European Union needs to ensure that they enter the labor market and become self-reliant as quickly as possible.

However, despite diverse educational backgrounds, working experiences, and reasons for coming to the EU, migrants tend to have worse employment outcomes in comparison with native-born citizens. In 2018, the EU unemployment rate for people aged 20 to 64 was 12.2 % for those born outside the EU, 6.1 % for the native-born population, and 6.8 % for those born in another EU Member State.

In this context, both research and practice suggest that Vocational Education and Training is recognized as a key aspect of integration as it fosters employability either in general terms or through enhancement of specific language or work skills (Duke et.al “Refugee resettlement in Europe” (2010); European Commission “Handbook on Integration for policymakers and practitioners” (2007).

It is also recognized that VET needs to stay a jour with the ongoing changes to meet the Labour market (employers) and refugees’ needs. In its report from 2016 “Vocational Education and Training: Bridging Refugee and Employer needs”, CEDEFOP states: “Considering the growing numbers of refugees there is a need to upscale, adapt and reinvent VET programs.” However, while there are many efforts put in adapting VET concerning accessibility, broadening the provision and individual guidance for refugees in all EU countries, the competence-development and support of VET trainers/teachers/counselors is still limited. According to CEDEFOP, it is vital to provide VET professionals with knowledge/tools/support for creating high-quality VET programs. It is insufficient to merely focus on teaching specific working techniques and behavior while neglecting other work-related skills, just like communication skills, teamwork, or other soft skills.

VET professionals rather have to be able to communicate and teach values, concepts, and realities that are relevant in their companies and the contemporary society, e.g. skills and knowledge to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts due to different cultural backgrounds. Consequently, many VET professionals often struggle with high job demands leading to stress and burnout. This, together with the fact that they encounter students suffering from multiple traumas related to pre-flight or flight situations might contribute to compassion fatigue. In her qualitative research study “The experience of staff working with refugees and asylum seekers in the UK”, Helen Liebling confirms that 75% of professionals including VET trainers/counselors express the need for ongoing training and counseling for coping with compassion fatigue as well as support in the development of the intercultural competence.