By Ellen Merethe Magnus, Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences
In Spring 2016 the Ministry of Education and Research asked Oslo and Akershus College of Applied Sciences to develop and offer completive study programs for refugees holding an academic degree in nursing or teaching from their home country, but lacking license to practice in Norway. In late fall, the Ministry requested a similar program for refugees holding a degree in science and technology. The overall goal of the programs is to provide the candidates with the skills to meet the requirements for obtaining license to practice in Norway. The license is the key to entering the workforce and contributing to value creation. I will present some of the problems we encountered and had to solve, as well as some of the lessons learned when developing the programs. We may not have found the ultimate solution, but we will continue to develop and adjust the programs to accommodate the users.
When we first set out developing the programs we faced many hard-to -answer questions: How many refugees have a degree in nursing? Where in Norway have the refugees with a teaching degree settled? Do nurses have a college degree in the countries the refugees are coming from? How similar is the content of the refugees study programs to the corresponding Norwegian study programs? What about the language skills of the refugees? We felt that very little background information was available. This demonstrates the usefulness of early mapping of the skills of asylum seekers to route each person in the right direction. Therefore, our first task was to search for and compile information from different sources regarding the educational background of the groups who would need a supplement to prior education to obtain their license.
How extensive should our study programs be? We felt that they should not exceed one to one and a half years fulltime studies. If the gap between the current skills and the required skills for license to practice in Norway is larger, we think that the candidate should rather attend a regular study program. We also needed to find out what skills the refugees were lacking to offer the needed supplement to their prior education. Applications for license submitted to the relevant authorizing bodies was, perhaps, the most valuable source of information. We also looked to Sweden, where HEIs have offered completive study programs for years to learn from their experiences, to see how they had solved similar tasks.
Another concern was how to reach out to prospective students. We assumed that advisors and teachers for the refugees would get the word out to the refugees efficiently. Thus, we informed advisors and teachers, directly and through the municipalities. We published information on our own webpage and the webpages of others, we wrote blogposts and chronicles and presented the programs in relevant meetings and seminars. A multi-langual video and multi-langual information leaflets were published on social medial for early information to refugees in the process of researching their possibilities for work or studies. Yet, information remains a challenging task.
The programs in teaching and nursing will welcome their first students in August 2017, whereas the program in science and technology will start in spring 2018. From the refugee’s point of view such programs is a means of integration into working life. From a societal point of view, such programs can quickly provide working life with skilled professionals. Some regions will experience a future shortage of professionals within certain fields, i.e., teachers and nurses. One possible strategy to meet such a shortage is municipalities and counties partnering up with local HEIs and to offer similar programs as ours regionally. This could ensure enough skilled professionals for services and businesses in their regions.
We are more than happy to share our experiences and possibly contribute to similar programs elsewhere.
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