copy the linklink copied!Executive summary

copy the linklink copied!Vocational education training is an essential integration tool

In 2017, there were 59 million young people with migrant backgrounds across OECD countries, representing 27% of young people – an increase of 4 percentage points over the previous decade. Between 2014 and 2017, more than 5.3 million asylum seekers arrived in OECD countries, and over 50% of those arriving in Europe were aged 18-34. Of these, many – though not all – have obtained some form of international protection (i.e. humanitarian migrants, which are mostly referred to as refugees). Previous experience suggests that many young migrants will struggle to integrate. Labour market outcomes for humanitarian migrants in particular are often poorer than both native and other migrant populations.

VET is a recognised means of addressing these challenges. Upper-secondary VET graduates – both native and foreign-born – are more likely to be employed compared to both upper-secondary general education graduates and people without upper-secondary qualifications. The benefits of VET appear to be stronger for disadvantaged students. For example, migrants and refugees are more likely to continue working in the same firm where they did their apprenticeship than their native peers. Evidence suggests that work-based learning, in particular apprenticeship, is one of the most effective ways for young refugees to integrate. Several OECD countries have invested in VET for enhancing integration and responding to skills shortages and ageing populations while at the same time taking the opportunity to improve VET systems for a wider group of students.

copy the linklink copied!The need to integrate young humanitarian migrants has prompted new approaches to VET

Countries have sought to address barriers facing migrant and refugee students while also making VET systems more inclusive and flexible. There are lessons to be learnt from the range of approaches that have emerged.

This report focuses on the channels through which migrants integrate into VET and the labour market, highlighting upper-secondary VET for young migrants and refugees mainly in Germany, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland. The report follows the pathway of students getting informed about VET, getting ready for VET, getting into VET and getting on within VET (Chapter 2-5). Chapter 1 provides an overview, and Chapter 6 discusses issues related to the governance of VET systems.

Young migrants and refugees should be informed about VET opportunities

It is important that host countries are able to collect and manage demographic and skills profiles of humanitarian migrants in order to assess their needs and capabilities and to better engage them with VET. However, much of the available data on humanitarian migrants is collected on an ad-hoc, small-scale basis. Young migrants and refugees are often unfamiliar with or have a poor opinion of VET, sometimes based on experience in origin countries. Addressing this challenge requires proactive provision of personalised career guidance and mentoring services including existing information mechanisms established for the general population such as schools, career guidance services, public employment services as well as reception centres, social services centres and NGOs.

Appropriate preparation is required to ensure effective pathways for migrants and refugees into and through upper-secondary VET

Even if upper-secondary VET becomes a goal for young migrants, they often face language and academic barriers. Effective preparatory programmes can enable smooth progress into mainstream upper-secondary VET by combining language, vocational and academic learning, engaging social partners, emphasising work-based learning and providing career guidance. Targeted pre-vocational or pre-apprenticeship programmes play particularly important roles. Teacher training for multi-cultural and multi-lingual settings can help teachers to optimise the effectiveness of preparatory and VET programmes.

Countries can facilitate easier access to upper-secondary VET

The share of young migrants entering upper-secondary VET programmes has been rising in recent years, by 6 percentage points (pp) in Germany (2009-17), 5 pp in Sweden (2011-17), and 3 pp in Switzerland (2012-17). However, challenges remain: for example, lower shares of migrants are admitted to upper-secondary VET than native students in Finland, Germany, Norway and Sweden. Specific challenges include relatively weaker skills, lack of relevant social networks, as well as possible discrimination in the apprenticeship market. Countries can reduce entry barriers by offering flexible VET provision, such as modular, shorter or longer programmes. Governments can also provide schools and employers with reassurance by clarifying the legal status of humanitarian migrant students and apprentices and seeking to place refugees with regard to labour market demand. Some countries are promoting intermediary bodies to build contacts between young migrants and employers. Such efforts can challenge discriminatory assumptions while enabling migrants to build social capital and better understanding of employer expectations.

Support should continue during upper-secondary VET both in school and the workplace

Migrant students are less successful in completing upper-secondary VET than their native peers. The completion gap is 8 percentage points (pp) in Finland and Germany, 16-18 pp in Norway and Sweden, and 7-11 pp in Switzerland. Higher dropout rates are linked to socio-economic instability, weaker academic proficiency, difficulty in securing training placements during VET and inadequate connections between school and the workplace. Dropouts are particularly problematic for apprenticeship programmes because the productive value of the apprentice emerges most strongly towards the end of apprenticeship. Work-based learning also tends to take place at the end of VET and early dropouts have less opportunity to apply skills in real workplaces, develop networks and references and position themselves well for transition into work. Personalised support through use of mentors and coaches as well as other support mechanisms to increase connections between schools and workplaces during VET enhances the outcomes of migrant students.

Long-term national strategies will enhance VET management for migrants and refugees

To build strong, flexible and inclusive VET systems where migrants and refugees can succeed, national strategies should align relevant policy measures and programmes. Closer links between preparatory, upper-secondary VET and adult VET programmes enables progression for all learners. Such linkages can have broad benefits, as humanitarian migrants experience similar needs and challenges as the wider group of students with disadvantaged backgrounds. With many stakeholders engaged in designing and delivering VET for humanitarian migrants, coordination and peer learning must be driven at national levels with strong engagement of social partners.

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Executive summary