The Project in a Nutshell
The project KYKY by the City of Helsinki developed integration services in Helsinki Vocational Adult Institute between the 1st of September 2015 and the 31st of August 2017. The project was funded by the European Social Fund. Its full name “KYKY – Yhteisöllinen vastuu ja yksilölliset työpolut” translates roughly as “ABILITY – Common responsibility, individual solutions”.
In this project, public authorities and civil organizations cooperated to find individual pathways to vocational studying, work, entrepreneurship and civil participation for immigrant stay-at-home parents. Project’s main target group was stay-at-home immigrant parents with under 3-year-old children, but the project also worked to benefit immigrants in the city and especially in Helsinki Vocational Adult Institute as a whole.
Project’s main activities were:
1) Piloting informative peer groups for Kurdish and Somali stay-at-home parents in Helsinki to support their integrational process.
2) Developing Finnish courses for stay-at-home parents so that they would include more social and labor life information, provide career counselling as well as provide participants with practical language skills.
3) Improving the process of immigrant students’ progress from preparatory education programs to actual degree programs inside Helsinki Vocational Adult Institute.
– the Peer Group Pilot –
Our project piloted groups that offered career guidance and information on public services in participants’ own mother tongue combined with peer support.
Every week the groups met for two and a half hours and discussed varying subjects from education and career options to public services, family health and civil participation. Each group met 18 times. Children under 3-years provided care for free during the meetings in a nearby room.
During the project, 17 groups were created in total. Each group lasted about 4 months. The groups reached around 170 stay-at-home moms and ten or so stay-at-home fathers. The programs for the peer support groups were planned and carried out by the projects’ three counselors – Aisha Ahmed, Mihraban Namiq and Hamdi Moalim.
During the project, it became clear that some of the participants had acute family or financial distress that influenced their ability to concentrate on career planning at that time. The counselors did their best to support personally the group members in their distress and to guide them to the right kind of public services.
Around one fourth of the participants continued in the peer groups for second term. The parents who carried on to take part in the groups for several terms explained, that they wanted more information as well as the support given by their counselor.
Around half of the participants proceeded to Finnish language courses or different preparatory educational programs like VALMA. Part of the participants stayed at home to take care of their children after the groups. A year after the first term, around 40 % of the participants were either at work or studying for a degree.
– the Development of Finnish Courses for Stay-at-home Parents –
Another big objective the project had, was developing different aspects of Finnish language courses for stay-at-home parents organized by Helsinki Vocational Adult Institute (shortly KOTIVA).
The work was coordinated by the Project Officer Maija Melo. She studied the courses both by personal observation and by conducting a survey for the course participants. Together with the teachers, the project reformed the courses’ curriculum, marketing as well as the application and student selection processes. The project also organized career counselling training for the Finnish language teachers and created different management tools to aid their work.
The development work has paid off both in course attendance and in the course appeal. Around 450 people applied for the KOTIVA courses 2016–2017, which was three times the amount of places the program had to offer. The attendance grew considerably. The KOTIVA intensive course reached even 90 % attendance, which is quite rare for the target group of stay-at-home parents of children under three.
– the Support of the Advances in Helsinki Vocational Adult Institute –
At the same time as our project supported immigrant stay-at-home parents in reaching their future goals, it also strived to remove barriers faced by our target group within the City of Helsinki and Helsinki Vocational Adult Institute in particular.
As a public institution, Helsinki Vocational Adult Institute has a great responsibility to improve the immigrants’ employment. With the lead of the Project Officer Maija Melo, the project has helped improving the institute’s ability to support non-native students and applicants. Melo interviewed students, teachers and public officers for a report that came out in October 2016. The report presents both the state of affairs and suggested improvements.
The main improvement suggestions include the need to unify the application processes and language requirements of different programs and the need to better the students’ transitions from preparatory education programs to actual degree programs. The report also mentions the need to tighten the cooperation between different programs and teachers and to improve marketing and adult career counselling.
The publication came out at a time that was crucial in Helsinki Vocational Adult Institute in its internal development as both the City’s administrative structure and the national vocational policies were under reconstruction. Developments were also accelerated by changes in the institute’s management and establishment of a new unit, Stadin osaamiskeskus, which combines rehabilitation, education and employment services for adult immigrants in Helsinki.
In spring 2017, Helsinki Vocational Adult Institute declared itself as “everyone’s vocational school” and made plans to develop
1) application and transition processes
2) student and career counselling services
3) communication and cooperation.
The development work continues for the years to come. Some results are visible already, as Helsinki Vocational Adult Institute pilots more continuous intake and preparatory-vocational degree bridging in fall 2017.