Helping socially-disadvantaged EU migrants to find work
There will be many from outside the EU who might initially think it sounds unfair that someone is specifically helping job-seeking, socially-disadvantaged EU migrants.
However, in the case of The Extra Mile Project, it was born out of an already existing organisation founded to address a more pressing need: an independent information service for homeless migrants without registration in Denmark.
Housing and network
Kirkens Korshær duly founded ‘Kompasset’ four years ago and quickly realised more needed to be done to address the underlying causes.
The Extra Mile Project, which was founded last year to provide guidance and assistance in the job-seeking process, was therefore the next logical step.
Staffed by a group of 15 to 20 volunteers, who fulfill key positions as mentors, language teachers and coaches, the project has two main aims: helping the EU migrants to find housing and establishing a network.
“One of the biggest obstacles socially-disadvantaged EU migrants face is a lack of network and stable housing,” explained manager Marta Wisniewska.
“It creates suspicion among employers, and it’s also difficult to structure a day and be a proactive job-seeker if you’re trying to fulfill your basic needs.”
Pros and cons
Being in a foreign country doesn’t help either. “The way that they look for jobs in their countries differs from the way you look for a job here in Denmark,” continuing Wisniewska.
“Through mentoring and workshops we improve their interview skills. We also teach them how to write a CV because back in their home countries that’s not how they find a job.”
However, being foreign can be advantageous, and participants are accordingly encouraged to start their job search in their local communities.
“We had a Spanish migrant who didn’t know English or Danish, but he found a job after networking within the Hispanic community,” she said.
Timing is everything
Nevertheless, it’s not always that easy, and finding a job can often take months, or even years. And sometimes, it’s better to wait, as timing is everything, according to Wisniewska.
“It’s a lot easier to find a job in the summer, as there’s more demand for work in the summer. For example, construction in winter is on hold. And if you’re homeless it works against you completely,” she warned.
“We advise the participants to apply in the early spring because they need to train before the summer season starts so they are prepared.”
The Extra Mile Project takes great care to ensure its participants make good candidates, and to pave the way to employment as much as it can by “building a trusted network of companies”.
Wisniewska vets potential employers, initially asking them if they take foreigners, before sending them emails seeking further co-operation.
“We enable businesses to advance their corporate social responsibility and help with CPR registration. It’s our expertise. We try to tell them that we have good candidates and that it makes good business sense for them to employ the migrants because of their skills and motivation,” she explained.
“We prepare our candidates for the job market and assess if they have the right qualifications and attitude and send them to companies,” she said.
Already The Extra Mile Project has enjoyed great success with a construction job agency, which has placed candidates on training programs and hired some, and local restaurant and cleaning companies.
Overall, Wisniewska is optimistic that she will find jobs for the participants as long as they work hard with their mentors.
“As long as they’re putting in the extra effort, I’m also willing to put in much more effort to help them if there are some opportunities with businesses,” she said.
“I want to make sure that the candidates that I match with businesses are motivated, well prepared and ready to work.”