Sweden’s public employment service has launched a project to help more people achieve long-term employment in the ICT sector, made possible by a grant of over one million Euros, secured through the European Union Grants Advisory (EUGA).
Case study: growing Sweden's ICT skills with the help of Microsoft programme for start-ups
|Program Fast Facts
ICT is one of the biggest areas of potential growth in Sweden, yet making sure that candidates meet employers’ needs is an obstacle.
Through the EUGA program, Microsoft has helped Arbetsförmedlingen – Sweden’s government-run employment agency – secure funding that will help to better equip jobseekers for the ICT marketplace.
- Providing skilled ICT workers for Sweden’s economy, today and in the future
- Closer alignment of jobseekers’ skills with employers’ specific requirements
- Tangible ‘hands-on’ help for jobseekers, contributing to their long-term employment potential
Arbetsförmedlingen has offices all over Sweden, supporting jobseekers, employers and private employment agencies. Demand for skilled workers is high across all sectors, but particularly true of ICT: the country has a history of technology innovation and there is no shortage of new ICT potential. However, this is offset by a problem shared by many EU countries: a lack of possible employees who match the needs of ICT firms. Plus, ICT has its own special challenges, as Rade Azaric of Arbetsförmedlingen explains:
“There is a small window of opportunity in ICT – certain skills in the field have a short life expectancy and it can take a long time to get back in if your skills have become outdated. We also became aware that when candidates were rejected for jobs, they weren’t getting enough feedback to help them understand what they need to improve.”
This is why Arbetsförmedlingen (which translates as ‘employment agency’) has launched a project to nurture candidates’ ICT skills in line with employee requirement. The agency had already worked closely with Microsoft, through a program of match-making events that brought together technology firms with potential candidates. Arbetsförmedlingen decided to develop this idea further, with a service that addresses several different issues at once: providing better feedback to candidates after interviews; helping them to acquire the most appropriate training, experience and support they need when seeking long-term employment; and bringing them into contact with potential employers.
Says Rade Azaric: “Candidates will receive ‘micro-feedback’ from several employers – through various matchmaking events - , so that they can start to see a pattern. Next, we assist them to maintain and develop their competence in ICT, not just through coursework but more practically. For instance, a candidate may build a web-page for streaming video-on-demand, so that he or she has something to show employers, who can then better assess each candidate’s skills.”
Close partnership with potential employers is an integral part of the program and includes giving companies an opportunity to directly influence skills development to more closely fit their needs. “Even if employers don’t have vacancies today, they can help to ensure there is a pool of suitable candidates for the future.”
Apart from Microsoft itself, Arbetsförmedlingen is also working with other technology firms, including Microsoft BizSpark partners. Candidates interested in setting up their own businesses will also have access to BizSpark, a global program launched by Microsoft to help start-ups with technology, support and visibility.
Funding of the Swedish project is dependent on recruiting a team of employment specialist to supporting job-seekers, from providing them with feedback through to helping them with skills development and finding potential employers. Arbetsförmedlingen had used EUGA to secure funding in the past, so it was a natural step to use its services again.
“There is a lot of work involved in applying for a grant and EUGA has considerable expertise and success in this area.” EUGA also helped the agency to get input from Microsoft partners –as potential employers – to strengthen the case for the grant application. The close relationship between Microsoft and EUGA has also been important: “It means we have a partner with both public and private sector experience. It’s been a big help.”
Through EUGA, Arbetsförmedlingen has now received a grant of over one million Euros, which is being used to set up the program, including funding six ICT employment specialists. The program’s initial aim is to provide assistance to a minimum of 150 ICT jobseekers by July 2011, focusing on the greater Stockholm area, which is the biggest concentration of potential employers. If successful, the program may be rolled out to other areas and even to other industry sectors, helping Sweden to create a pool of skilled workers, for both today and the future.
The European Grants Advisor (EUGA) program helps Europe’s small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), start-ups and local and regional governments to make the most of the funds available across the EU. Grants covered by EUGA include ICT infrastructure, training, R&D and recruitment. Since the program was introduced in 2005, over 113,000 European companies have benefitted from EUGA’s help. Microsoft has now integrated EUGA with its highly successful BizSpark program, designed to support the ICT entrepreneurial community.