The Applying talents project (1 September 2017–31 August 2019), also known as KYKY II, is a project carried out by the City of Helsinki Education Division. The project is being implemented at Helsinki Skills Center, which is part of Helsinki Vocational College and Adult Institute.
The primary target groups of the project are: 1) parents who take care of their children at home and whose native language is Somali or Arabic and 2) unemployed Somali- and Arabic-speaking immigrant parents who are past their integration period. The indirect target groups of the project include the children and spouses of the actual target group as well as their communities, professionals working with the target group, the staff of Helsinki Vocational College and Adult Institute, students and aspiring students with an immigrant background.
The Applying talents project is a continuation of KYKY – Common responsibility, individual solutions (1 September 2015–31 August 2017). The KYKY project piloted information-intensive peer-support groups that are held in Somali and Kurdish for immigrant parents who take care of their children at home, in addition to developing Finnish courses (KOTIVA courses) to be more customer- and working-life-oriented. The courses are intended for stay-at-home parents.
The objective of the Applying talents project is to support the social inclusion of the target group and prevent its social exclusion by developing services that support the target group’s education and employment. The project:
- Continues the development of information-intensive peer-support groups for stay-at-home parents by expanding the target group to include Arabic-speaking parents and by providing the participants with need-based IT workshops in their own language. The project has over 300 participants.
- Pilots an information service used on mobile devices that is intended to introduce immigrants with poor reading and writing skills to the City of Helsinki’s service range and authorities.
- Intensifies the cooperation between operators in the integration sector in Helsinki and expands networks through the preparation of a joint event.
- Participates in the development of Helsinki Vocational College and Adult Institute. The institute’s staff are trained in the special characteristics of the training and guidance provided to the target group.
The Applying talents project is funded by the European Social Fund. The project is included in priority axis 5: Promoting social inclusion and combating poverty.
Background of the KYKY projects
The City of Helsinki has been paying special attention to immigrant parents who take care of their children at home since 2004. The special needs and starting points of immigrant parents were examined in many contexts, including the teaching of Finnish as a second language (S2) at Family House Sahrami; the Chili project (2007–2010), which sought to create a model for teaching languages to mothers who take care of their children at home;
the KYKY investigation project (1 February–31 August 2014), which examined the status of Finnish language courses for stay-at-home parents; and KYKY – Common responsibility, individual solutions (2015–2017).
The services developed for the target group are based on concern about the target group’s poor level of integration and risk of social exclusion. The employment rate is low among immigrant women and women with a refugee background in particular. In 2014, the employment rate among people who had immigrated to Finland from Africa and the Middle East was only 46 per cent (compared to the 74 per cent rate among those with a Finnish background). The employment rate among people with a refugee background was 35.4 per cent in 2014, due to a low level of education. Studies show that women with a refugee background have particular difficulties with returning to the job market due to rapid family formation, a low level of education and a lack of work experience. (Survey on work and well-being among persons of foreign origin 2014, Statistics Finland). In other words, there is a great deal of long-term unemployment and prolonged exclusion from the job market within the project’s target communities.
Mothers who stay at home with their children for a long period of time do not learn Finnish and are unfamiliar with the City’s services, their own rights and the laws of Finland. Mothers who birth many children may stay at home for years, leading to their integration period running out. Such individuals become marginalised in the service system.
A low level of education is often accompanied by illiteracy. Among the participants of the KYKY projects, 30% or as many as 50% were illiterate. Although the target group has lived in Helsinki for many years, many of them are still at beginner level in their Finnish proficiency, and they require a great deal of support with running basic errands.
In autumn 2018, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) commented that the Finnish child home care allowance was one of the key reasons for the poor integration of women and families with an immigrant background in Finland. The child home care allowance, which is paid until the child turns three years old, prolongs the parent’s stay at home. At the same time, it prevents children with an immigrant background from entering early childhood education in time. This may cause challenges in pre-school and basic education if the child has not been able to strengthen their Finnish proficiency in time.
Despite their poor conditions for employment and study, the individuals reached by the KYKY project consider their work ability to be good, and they are often responsible for handling the matters of a large family, regardless of their level of knowledge. These parents also have a positive outlook and the will to move forward in life.
Knowledge-oriented peer-support groups in Arabic and Somali
The peer-support groups piloted in the KYKY project were developed further by setting up Arabic language groups alongside Somali language groups. Among other things, the peer-support groups discussed the following topics: local services, civic skills and influencing, child rearing, support for parents and child welfare, working life in Finland, physical activity and health.
Additionally, the project included the introduction of digital workshops for the participants of the peer-support groups, offered in their own language. These workshops allow the participants to learn the basics of using a computer and e-mail and familiarise themselves with tools that are required to run everyday errands and take care of family matters. These tools include online banking services, the student management system Wilma and the electronic services of the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela) and TE Offices, which provide employment and business services. The peer-support groups convened for a three-hour session once a week, while the digital workshop convened for a two-hour session once a week. The peer-support groups reached over 300 people, of whom 50–70% have moved forward towards education or working life.
Discover Helsinki (Löydä Helsinki) – an information service for immigrants with poor reading skills
The project set up a low-threshold information service for mobile use, called Discover Helsinki, intended for immigrants with poor reading and writing skills. The application was released in October 2018 with the content available in Finnish and Somali, and Arabic content was added to the application at the end of 2018. The application was marketed directly to the target group and professionals working with the target group throughout winter 2018 and spring 2019. By July 2019, the application has had over 2,300 users.
The application is available at http://www.loydahelsinki.fi.
Intensifying cooperation between operators and expanding networks
The project developed the Supported Apprenticeship Model. It allows a student with an immigrant background to complete the Vocational Qualification in Education and Instruction as an apprenticeship. The employers in the model are organisations that work with immigrants. In addition to students, the model is beneficial to employer organisations and the City, which receive help in the implementation of outreach work and service counselling. The Applying talents project coordinates cooperation between the parties to the model and provides apprentices with career counselling and training through the City of Helsinki’s services. The participants in the model included 14 students and a total of 10 NGOs: Al-Birr Lähimmäisapu; African Care; Helsinki YMCA; Nicehearts; the Multicultural Women’s Association, Finland (MONIKA); Monik; the Finnish Refugee Council; Suomen venäjänkielisten keskusjärjestö and the Finnish-Syrian Friendship Association. Seven of the students graduated in summer 2019.
The networks of the operators in this sector were expanded through participation in the organisation of the Integration 2018 conference in extensive cooperation with organisations, ministries and municipalities. Integration 2018 was the first networking event in Finland to be intended for the entire national integration sector. There were a total of 17 organisers. The event strengthened partnerships between government agencies, the third sector and the business community. The event was held at Kulttuuritalo in Helsinki on 18 and 19 September 2018.
Development of Helsinki Vocational College and Adult Institute
In autumn 2017 and spring 2018, the project provided pedagogical support in teaching groups of the Helsinki Vocational College and Adult Institute that include a great number of students who speak Finnish as a second language. Based on observation sessions and interviews conducted in the groups by the project planner, the project produced a report on pedagogical solutions in similar teaching groups.
In late 2018 and early 2019, the project’s project manager participated in a working group comprised of experts from Helsinki Skills Center that was tasked with preparing and implementing a training module on multiculturality and equality for the staff of Helsinki Vocational College and Adult Institute. The module in question was part of the PedaBooster training programme that was implemented at the institution in order to update the staff’s knowledge of current themes.