Introducing The English Blog Series: Korta Vägen
PS Partners grundare & VD, Anna Petersson, har i många år haft en vilja att ta till vara på den kompetens som på olika sätt kommer till Sverige och vi är nu stolta, förväntansfulla & kanske framförallt glada att kunna berätta om vårt samarbete med
Korta Vägen Göteborg!
Korta Vägen Collaboration
by Megan Reif Dyfvermark
As the broken Swedish emerged from my lips, I wondered what had compelled me to stand up in the middle of what was an otherwise seamless presentation last week by my colleagues to accounting and banking professionals in the Korta Vägen program. The correct, flowing sentences I had envisioned beforehand hit a bottleneck somewhere between brain and mouth. The traffic jam caused the words to swerve and pile up so that my contribution about using LinkedIn felt jolting and awkward. What business did I have presenting on anything in Swedish, let alone advising people about navigating the Swedish labor market? “It’s like the very near-sighted leading the blind,” I thought to myself.
In fact, just a couple of months ago, I was feeling professionally adrift and planned to apply for the Korta Vägen program myself when a similar PS Partner workshop at the West Sweden Chamber of Commerce Global Talent seminar series inspired me and gave me concrete tools to overcome my fears and do everything before I was ready — rethink my goals, overhaul my CV, apply for jobs outside of my field, and interview and speak Swedish at work, giving me my own “short path” to professional fulfillment in Sweden.
It is appropriate, then, that PS Partner’s collaboration with Korta Vägen in Gothenburg is the subject of our first blog post in English. For the past five years, PS Partner’s blog has reflected frequently on issues related to creating inclusive and diverse workplaces in Sweden. It is an honor for me to continue this trend in English in order to communicate with both companies and many talented people from around the world who find themselves in Sweden for myriad reasons and are learning Swedish but grateful that English is a common (if perhaps overstated) means of communication here.
Korta Vägen (short cut or short path) is a training program for university-educated people who are new to Sweden that combines language study, training to navigate the Swedish labor market and social milieu, and an internship with a Swedish employer. Sponsored by Arbetsförmedlingen, the national Swedish public employment service, Korta Vägen programs are operated in at least 22 cities by different educational institutions, such as Folkuniversitet (e.g., Gothenburg) and Stockholm University, among others.
After our presentations at Korta Vägen last week, we looked at the CVs of all of the program participants and conducted speed interviews in Swedish for seven minutes, after which we gave each participant feedback. I watched my colleague conduct two interviews before doing one with her supervision and one on my own. I think I was more terrified than the interviewees, not only about sounding professional in Swedish but also presuming to offer advice to people with just a few weeks of experience at PS Partner under my belt. It was humbling to meet incredible individuals from at least seven countries, such as a former executive from Britain’s banking world, a former accountant to government institutions in Africa, and an accountant from the Middle East who has also sung with the Gothenburg Opera. Most were already bi- or tri-lingual before adding Swedish to the languages they speak. Yet nearly all have struggled to find jobs in their field. One double-degree MBA/MSc in Accounting professional from South Asia, for example, has been working at a restaurant for several years to support children while also trying to learn Swedish and find a job more appropriate to his training.
As I listened to them talk about their experience, I realized that we were all communicating with each other quite well despite the challenges of conversing in another language. I heard their stories rather than their pronunciation or grammatical mistakes. Fears about my own performance faded temporarily and my thoughts turned to my desire to help them all find jobs. Of course, even though we are a recruiting and staffing firm, I know that may be an impossible dream. The highly-specialized and unique combinations of skills that many organizations seek are difficult to find among those born in Sweden as well as the foreign-born population. Finding the perfect match is not a simple process. I once read that this line of work is about “finding people for jobs, not finding jobs for people.” In fact, one acquaintance echoed this cynical assumption when she asked if PS Partner is collaborating with Korta Vägen because we have some sort of exclusive contract involving compensation for our workshops for the participants.
We are collaborating with Korta Vägen because we share the program’s goals and values. Like Korta Vägen, we believe that “det finns en plats för alla” (there is a place for everyone). We cannot find people with rare combinations of skills that specific positions demand unless we know many people, so opportunities to interact with new potential candidates able to communicate in Swedish like those we met last week are always welcome, but our commitment goes beyond any strategic aim. PS Partner views job seekers at all levels and employers of all sizes and in every sector as partners and sees all as equally valuable. From the janitor to the CEO, all roles are critical to an organization’s success. Organizations of all sizes across sectors, from single-employee firms to huge multinational corporations and government agencies, are critical to a successful society.
The “rätt person på rätt plats” (the right person in the right place) philosophy that we share with Korta Vägen is not just an idealistic notion. It is inefficient and potentially costly for society when people with several Master’s degrees spend years underemployed in restaurant jobs when they long to contribute the skills they spent so much time developing. Conversely, it is a loss to organizations and society to leave positions unfilled because the right people cannot be found because they lack access to the tools to become visable (and findable) job seekers.
A recent study by the academic union, Jusek (https://www.jusek.se/globalassets/rapport_ratt-jobb-utrikes-fodda-slutversion.pdf), has found that in the Västra Götalands Region alone, an additional SEK 1.6 billion per year would be generated in the economy if the approximately 45,000 foreign-born professionals with university education were employed in the fields for which they were trained rather than either receiving unemployment assistance or being underemployed.
Finding the perfect match is not just about finding more candidates and pairing skills on a CV to a list of job requirements. Through our hands-on workshops and recruitment processes, we actively engage with both candidates and employers and challenge them to think creatively about how skills from different backgrounds can contribute to organizations’ goals in unexpected ways. Working with Korta Vägen gives us the opportunity to know the candidates in this untapped pool of talent more deeply and help them become effective job-seekers that employers desire.
For example, participating in one of PS Partner’s workshops a couple of months ago and in a subsequent recruitment process for a job at another company before ending up on the PS Partner team, for example, I was asked questions and received feedback that was transformative. A short speed interview exercise helped me see my skillset, values, and goals through a new lens. I gained the confidence to think about how I could be of service in different kinds of settings. At the same time, PS Partner also presented me as a candidate for a position for which I was qualified but did not meet the superficial prerequisites. I have since learned that this methodology is part of PS Partner’s guiding principle to work with “moda” (moxie or courage), daring to see possibilities where others might see limitations.
We met over 22 people in last week’s workshops alone, and will meet many more in the coming months and years. I hope that the process of working with us will build the job seeker’s confidence and give them concrete tools to move forward despite all the fears and challenges of working in a new culture and country. We will also continue to reflect on our experience with Korta Vägen here in our blog and share our insights with employers who we hope will be inspired to establish Korta Vägen internship programs in their organizations.
I will also share tips in English with resources for learning Swedish on your own, whether you have 10 minutes a day or 10 hours, and insights on navigating the Swedish job market as a foreigner.
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Do you have a story to share about your own experience with Korta Vägen as a participant or employer that you would like to share? Let us know on our social media channels or contact us here on our website.
About Korta Vägen for those who are job-seekers:
Korta Vägen in each city holds two full-time, 26-week sessions every year free of charge to admitted participants. To be eligible for admission, you should speak English, basic Swedish, and have received your Swedish residence permit within the past three years and completed at least three years of higher education in a country outside the European Union. Those who are registered and have established an employment plan with Arbetsförmedlingen receive priority. You can apply through your case officer at your designated local Arbetsförmedlingen office. You can find links to the Korta Vägen programs in each city where they are available here: https://www.saco.se/omstart/utbildning/korta-vagen-till-jobbet/
About Korta Vägen for employers:
Although the Korta Vägen program is relatively new, a study from Stockholm University (https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:625446/FULLTEXT01.pdf) has found that both participants and employers have benefited from the program, particularly the internship component. Hundreds of companies have worked with Korta Vägen. We encourage companies to establish internship programs for Korta Vägen participants.