Economic integration is a key factor for the social inclusion of vulnerable and excluded people. Caritas Hellas has invested greatly in this component and is currently one of the major actors in the design and implementation of holistic employability services for different target groups. Key aim of most of the economic integration services is the creation of a temporary safety net of financial or material aid, “push actions” aiming at strengthening the resilience and skills of beneficiaries and “pull actions” for facilitating their access to the labour market. In this challenging path to self-sustainability it is fundamental to help PoCs to assess their talents, expertise and options with realism and support their efforts to become economically independent by providing targeted professional aid.
Since the design phase of its employability hub services, Caritas Hellas aimed at a rounded approach which takes into consideration the analysis of the labor market and legal framework and offers a holistic model of support and accompaniment for the job seekers. To live up to this goal, Caritas Hellas, conducted research with methodologies such as the value chain market analysis (VCA study) in Athens, developed digital tools such as the Online Platform and App linking Refugees to Employment and Training Opportunities, hired professional job counselors and social entrepreneurship experts and runs Pilot Programs in its shelters and Social Services.
Currently, Caritas Hellas offers to potential Job seekers:
- Job Counselling: one to one and group sessions, soft skills trainings (communication and problem-solving skills, decision-making and adaptability-flexibility ability), CV drafting seminar, interview preparation, insertion of Profile in the Online Platform and App (see below), a weekly “job club” group meeting where actual applications to jobs listings take place, optional psychometric tests, follow up – evaluation sessions etc. referral and enrollment to training opportunities organised by other actors, job days, intermediation with selected employers etc
- Financial Counselling: Caritas Hellas is one of the few organizations which help beneficiaries submitting their tax declarations. Additionally, the financial counselor conducts one to one and group sessions, household budgeting, issuing of tax and social security numbers, basic business plans etc
- Vocational Training: Caritas Hellas was one of the first organizations to offer its beneficiaries vocational training courses in collaboration with certified vocational training provider in their own language. Examples of the courses include sewing and tailoring, cooking, hair stylists, baristas etc
- Job Related Legal Counselling: one to one and group sessions, job and SME related legal advice, sessions on working rights in Greece etc
- Social Entrepreneurship counselling: Financial and legal counsellor collaborate in organizing social entrepreneurship seminars where legal and accounting framework and basic business planning is explained
Indicative of the investment on employability services is also the fact that Caritas Hellas runs in coordination with CRS and Caritas Athens, internal high level coordination meetings which provide a collaborative space for reflection, exchange of experiences, program planning ideas and interventions evaluation between different programs and geographical areas of implementation.
Caritas Hellas Online Platform
In the context of its integrational activities Caritas Hellas has commissioned the development of an online platform and an app with many automations to help refugees and immigrants get information about training and employment opportunities in a preferred language of their choice. By the end of November 2017, the beta version was fully functional. Its pilot implementation in Employability interventions is currently ongoing and expansion to different target groups (NEET’s, vulnerable PoCs etc) is under construction.
The Platform has been characterized a best Practice in EU Project “Progetto MEET – Migrazioni in Europa ed Evoluzioni Transnazionali “Fondo Asilo, Migrazione e Integrazione 2014-2020”. Developing the Platform has resulted to the invitation of Caritas Hellas in the Experts Group working on the Preparation of the Symposium “Connecting the Dots: Young People, Social Inclusion and Digitalisation” organized by the Partnership between the European Commission and the Council of Europe in the field of youth in Tallinn in June 2018.
The basic data inserter of the Platform is the Social Worker/Job Counsellor. He or she interviews the Job seeking beneficiary and inserts his or her employment and educational Profile in the System. The System automatically and daily matchmakes their profile to existing Job listings from major job listing webpages and training opportunities (inserted in the system manually). The System keeps sending a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 2 messages weekly to the beneficiary in the preferred way of communication until he or she opts out. The beneficiary interaction with a system includes the downloading of an automatically generated cv, request for help on a specific opportunity, an automatic translation chat box with the Social Worker in charge of his case, and other.
The Livelihoods Pilot Program
Targeting hosted beneficiaries of the UNHCR Urban Shelter Program, CRS, Caritas Hellas and Caritas Athens have implemented a livelihoods pilot program aiming at motivating and empowering refugees for their eventual integration in Greece.
The program aims to tackle five challenges for integration as these were assessed in the design phase.
- The language barrier by the provision of easily accessible Greek language classes.
- The participation in social networks by facilitating a “buddy system” with which a refugee’s family get to know a Greek family and participate in entertaining activities with local community members.
- Preparation for entering the Greek Job Market by helping the potential job seekers with issuing social security and tax numbers, drafting a cv, preparing for job interviews etc
- Access to the Job Market via the collaboration with an experienced Greek recruiting agency already connected to the local labour market.
- Household budgeting tutoring which promotes the understanding of the cost of living in Greece and helps refugees face the challenges of living independently.
Currently the Program is under evaluation to assess its qualitative and quantitative results.
Education as a means of inclusion & economic integration
Apart from the trainings offered in the context of Employability and Livelihoods, in 2017 Caritas Hellas focused its educational activities in English and Greek language classes for adults and children. The courses targeted mainly refugees and Immigrants as basic language skills are essential for social and economic integration. Other educational activities included computer basic skill classes, afternoon tutoring for school children, intercultural and social informative sessions and other.
Greek language lessons
Greek language courses for adults have been designed based on the curriculum and language requirements as defined by the official examinations of the Greek Ministry of Education covering A1 to B1 level. Support to the students in the Greek language examination held by the Ministry of Education has been provided. Specific courses for the illiterate population have been designed. Beneficiaries who have entered the National Greek language exams (Ellinomathia) have had great success rates.
As soon as the Ministry of Education announced the enrolment of refugee children in the Greek schools, special language classes have also been organized. Since September 2017 tutoring classes are also offered to help them with school homework and improve their language skills.
- English Language lessons
For the design of the English language courses Caritas Hellas has developed a very successful partnership with the British Council in Athens. The curriculum and requirements of each level of the English language course has been designed in cooperation with the British Council. With the completion of each level, participants receive a participation certificate, co-signed by Caritas Hellas and the British Council.
Lessons have seen a high level of participation with a noted increase of signing ups and a low rate in drop outs. Specific courses for the illiterate population have been designed.
- Education for refugees on basic skills of Computer Science
Caritas Hellas also provided courses on the development of basic computer skills for the refugee and migrant population in Athens and Thessaloniki. The courses have been organized in small groups of 6-8 people with parallel translation in English, Arabic and Farsi.