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Internships abroad help young people with disabilities establish foothold in labour market

The project Active Mobility

 

Active Mobility is run by the Activa Foundation in Örebro County and has been ongoing since the autumn of 2015. The project uses internships abroad as a method to help young men and women with disabilities or illness establish a foothold in the labour market. The results so far are promising, with many participants already having transitioned to jobs or studies after completing their internship abroad.

 

Active Mobility will run for three years. During this time, five groups of around ten participants each get the opportunity to travel to another EU country for a two-month internship. The project is targeted to men and women, aged 18 to 29, who remain outside the labour market because of known or suspected disabilities and who are at risk of long-term exclusion.

Breaking away from a negative social context

The project aims to create opportunities for participants to be able to break away from any negative social context they find themselves in. After the internship is over, and in collaboration with the Swedish Employment Office, Social Insurance Office and six of the county’s municipalities, the project hopes to quickly leverage the new experience gained by the participants and pave their way to a job or studies. The project’s approach aims to give participants stronger self-confidence, work experience, increased independence and confidence in their own ability.

 

“Internships abroad mean that the participants gain a new context without the stigma they’re accustomed to at home. This target group is often subject to stereotyping, as society has already determined that they are not capable of that much. The stay abroad poses a completely new challenge, and the experience makes them stronger because they realise they can manage it,” says project manager Åsa Engström. 

Development in three steps

The internship is completed in collaboration with a partner abroad who welcomes the participants, finds internships for them and provides support during their training period. This approach includes three steps: a three-month preparation period including an internship in the home country, a two-month internship abroad in which participants are accompanied by two supervisors during the first week, and a post-project follow-up and evaluation for one month, with a view towards a job or studies.

Driving young people out of their comfort zone

The participants often have ADHD or diagnoses within the autism spectrum, with accompanying learning disabilities, anxiety disorders or social anxiety disorders. For some of these young people, the trip is their first time abroad. And there is much cause for concern — from fear of flying and worry over what to pack to accommodations, cultural differences, working life and practical issues like internet use and cooking.

 

But an important part of the internship abroad is precisely to encourage young people to break free from a comfort zone that may have been holding them back for quite some time. The internship serves as proof to them that they are capable of standing on their own feet in another country and performing a job.

 

Slightly more than six months into the project, one group has been interning in Maribor, Slovenia, and a second group is there right now. The results for the first group are almost entirely positive. After returning home, one participant enrolled in adult education, one has a part-time job at an IT department, and two participants who had previously been in adult day services in Sweden were offered internships in the open labour market at a municipal-run automobile detailing business. One person has moved on to another internship in Sweden.

 

“This is a confirmation that our approach works. What we often see is that the participants obtain a successful internship at home after living abroad, after several previously unsuccessful internships, which shows that something has happened to them after the trip. They’ve taken a giant step ahead and have grown self-confident and mature,” says Engström.

Bild i högerkolumnPicture from a studyvisit.

Active Mobility

Programme area:

2.1 Improve transition to labour market 

Region:

Eastern central Sweden

Project owner:

Activa Foundation in Örebro County