Recruiting 500 Newcomers as Interns Over The Next 3 Years

In the fall of 2015, the company Vardaga decided to find new employees among the many talented people that came to Sweden as asylum seekers. Last year alone, they recruited 180 interns among asylum seekers. Some of which had been in the Sweden for just some weeks. I managed to get a hold of the person responsible for this initiative in the company. Her name is Nina Thoren Forsanker and her vision is that more companies like them decide to recruit 500 interns over the next 3 years. 


The interviewee Nina sitting in black sweater with one finger on her cheek

The business developer Nina Thoren Forsanker is responsible for the project of recruiting 500 interns at Vardaga/Ambea over the next 3 years.

Would you like to tell us more about yourself?

My name is Nina Thoren Forsanker. I started my career as a nurse and then I became the manager for an elderly care and later the whole company and now I am working with business development. I am working with making sure we have staff in the future. We are at 14 000 employees and we want to grow. We need to recruit new employees to do that.


What does the situation look like finding the employees in your industry?

It depends. In some places, it is really hard to find the right employees. We need to find people that are interested in working with this and have the personality that we are looking for like having respect for the elderly. Estimates from SKL say that there will be a shortage of 200 000 nurses in a ten year period. We saw that there are a lot of competence among newcomers that don’t get the chance, so we need to be there and find the people that want to work and be with us.


Why do you want to recruit 500 interns over the course of the next 3 years?

Two reasons.

The first reason is that in the fall of 2015, we asked ourselves “what can we do?” as a response to seeing people coming to Sweden as asylum seekers. We went to transit housing for asylum seekers and helped out. Giving away clothes and other necessities. Helping out.

Then we started to talk about what we could do in the organization and we decided we wanted to offer internships through Migrationsverket. Now, we have started to cooperate with Arbetsförmedlingen instead because Migrationsverket is not responsible for internships anymore. The purpose is to help the people that just got residence permits to give them a contact with the job market and help newcomers understand social codes, norms, and regulations.

The second reason is that we believe that this is important for us to be able to grow in the future. As I said, there will be 200 000 people missing in a ten year period and we need people to work with us in order to grow.

A smiling woman standing at a table holding a plate with some glasses and cups

One of the newest coworkers at Vardaga, Melat.


So, what have you done so far?

During 2016, we did a pilot project where we started offering internships. We had speed dates with candidates so that we managed to have 180 people doing internships during the year. Out of the 180 people, 32 got a contract.

We also have a mentorship program where we combine mentorships with training. In the mentorship program, both the mentors and the mentees are getting training.

One thing that people get in the mentorship program is to learn the specific words they need to know in our industry. For instance, journalists say that there are 70 000 words in a daily newspaper. But, there are lots of words in there that you don’t need to know. For instance, if there is an article about spaceships, then a nurse don’t need to know those space-related words. So, we have Swedish teachers coming in. These are Swedish teachers that also have a nursing education. So they both know the language and the industry we are in.


Why did not more people get jobs?

A lot of people got moved around by Migrationsverket. Around 80-90 of our interns got transferred from one asylum home to another. In some cases, this led to big problems. Interns came to work crying because they would have to quit their internship and move to another city. Another reason to why people didn’t get a job after the internship was the language. Some of the people that were interns had literally been in the country for weeks and then it is hard to develop the language to such an extent that you can communicate with your colleagues.


What has been important to make this work?

Our communication department. We have talked about this on our intranet, staff magazine, and in media outlets. We talked about that this is not only something we do because it is good for society but also an opportunity for us to get the right colleagues. We want to make something good for society and we also need the right competence. Our CEO has been very active from the start. He has always been talking about this in the monthly meetings, met people in our elderly homes. It is something close to his heart. To share the progress we are making in this project.


What are some obstacles?

Misunderstandings. Sometimes someone is not showing up due to a misunderstanding. Communication and language are important. But most of the obstacles are possible to solve.


What is your vision for this project and integration in Sweden?

I have a vision that more people would be a part of the 100-club, the club that Arbetsförmedlingen has for the companies that are offering 100 people internships in their organization. I would even want there to be a 500 club and I have been suggesting that for Arbetsförmedlingen. Also, I there could be a competition among the companies in this area.

If we can offer 500 internships in our organization, then other big companies can do the same. You just need to find someone like me in the organization that is persistent and motivated. I would like more companies to do what we do.

The cooperation with Arbetsförmedlingen is working really well. What we do is that we make a suggested candidate profile that we send to Arbetsförmedlingen. Then they match that profile with candidates and we meet them at a recruitment event. We talk to the candidates for 15 minutes or so. This has worked really well. We have been surprised with the great level of Swedish among the candidates.


If someone that reads this wants to work for you, what should they do?

Contact your handläggare at Arbetsförmedlingen and say that you are interested in elderly care. Then ask which ways you can go. Say that you have heard that Ambea have language training and trainee jobs. Ask when Ambea’s next recruitment meeting is.

There are also some programs that you can do like the dedicated SFI for people with medical background called SFA. I have heard that it is really good.


What is your candidate profile? Who can apply?

Our candidate profile is pretty harmless. We want the right person. We want people that are motivated and want to work with us. We want them to be like “I really want to work with people”. When the person is an asylum seeker, we don’t have any requirements of Swedish. The purpose, in that case, is to offer people a meaningful activity. With the 100-club the level of Swedish has been great with the candidates. It is beneficial if the person can read and write so they can participate in the education. Because the education we provide requires reading and writing skills. Also, the person needs to be prepared to learn and a willingness to do an internship.

Of course, it is good if the person has previous experience taking care of someone. That the person has empathy for the elderly living in our homes. So that they have the ability feel what they feel and help them. Also that the person is able to cooperate, don’t have prestige and humble.


How do you test this?

The behavior in the interview. If the person is curious, asking questions, keeping eye contact. We want to feel that the person want to work with us and take care of elderly people. In Sweden, there is a saying that you should “visa framfötterna”. This means that you are doing the best you can and take initiative. In other countries, this might not be as important in an interview situation.


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