One challenge for the authorities is to make asylum seekers wanting to stay in the region once they get a residence permission. To give refugees reason not to move further but to stay in Jämtland, public authorities as well as companies and the civil society have important roles.
What's about Jämtland?
Jämtland is a sparsely populated region located in central Sweden with borders to Norway. With its 44,000 inhabitants, Östersund is the only city in Jämtland, other small towns not reaching over 5 000 inhabitants. Between 1990 and 2015, five of the municipalities experienced a shrinking population, each losing between 18% and 28% of their population. While the population in Sweden grew with more than 4 million since 1915, Jämtland's population assuredly increased within the same timeframe, but then decreased again, resulting in almost the same size of population in 1915 (124,500) as in 2015 (127,400).
The share of people working in the primary sector (forestry, fishery and agriculture) are slightly more than in the rest of the country, but the largest sectors are education and health, with almost every third woman is working in the health care sector. In Sweden, Jämtland is well known for its ski resort in Åre and has a vast landscape, with a lot to see and experience for anyone interested in nature. In past years, Jämtland has taken part in exhibitions abroad, promoting Jämtland as a place to settle for Europeans that are longing for nature in their day-to-day life.
Nowadays, the focus has shifted towards trying to make refugees stay in the region instead. Jämtland region see asylum seekers and newly arrived refugees as an opportunity to raise their population and public authorities are working hard to find the best ways to make them stay in the region. Having only about half the share of foreign born persons in the region as compared with Sweden as a whole, Jämtland has understood that there is clearly something they are missing out of.
Knowing your role - mapping collaboration on integration
To get established as a new person in Sweden means to get in touch with a number of authorities, to take courses, get in to kinder garden, primary school, secondary school or adult education, finding a job, validate earlier academic degrees and working experiences, learn the language, get in to the health system, get family support and not least housing, among other things. In a project that went on between 2013 and 2015 responsible authorities, both regional and local, made a joint effort to map the process from the issuing of a persons' residence permit, to the finalization of a persons' establishment program. This activity clarified responsibilities as well as uncertainties in the process, and has been an important ground for collaboration on integration among various actors in the region.
Nowadays there is a regional strategy to increase settlement and improve integration that communicates the importance of immigrants for the region and there are much-appreciated platforms for knowledge exchange for the municipalities, the county and Swedish Public Employment Service where they can share examples of how they have solved different issues in the establishment process.
Jämtland has a challenge to meet the need to recruit new employees since a high number of persons are getting a retirement the coming years. Adding to this, there is a lack of skilled labour in many professions, particularly in the health care sector. As an example on how the region works with this, the health interview that is offered to refugees, should also include identifying competences in the health care sector, as a way to find competences in this sector at an early stage.
Make internships an attractive alternative – and use a coordinator
Jämtland are making efforts to create internship positions at companies as well as in the public sector. In Östersund politicians have decided to arrange 100 apprenticeships in the public sector. Some of the municipalities have an establishment coordinator that works specifically with connecting newly arrived to jobs and internships. The coordinator in Krokom map competencies and interests among the newly arrived and map needs among local employers and motivate them to take apprentices. The coordinator also support the employers with paper work and to understand what kind of financial support they can get from the Swedish Public Employment Service for taking on interns.
One success factor for creating apprentice positions is to make good matches between the intern and the employer – when both are happy with the apprentice period, this is probably the best way to show the advantages and inspire others. Jämtland has learned that the commitment of the employers is important, not least to change sometimes negative attitudes towards receiving apprentices. Taking on apprentices that are learning the language might require some extra time from the colleagues, and this extra work do make some people hesitant to do it.
Two ways of changing these attitudes have shown particularly successful. In the health care sector, the mentors can take courses to support them in the mentoring activities, and the region is putting resources to substitute the regular staff when they were away on mentorship tasks. This brought positive attitudes and made both interns and the mentor training courses requested.
Another successful way has been when senior officials take on trainees, this has been tried out in Åre and Krokom municipalities. Both the Mayor and various Directors at the municipality have had apprentices, and this signals that if persons at high positions do have time for apprentices, then many more should be able to.
Offer housing close to reception – a successful strategy
Housing is one of the most important pieces to build up a new life at a new place. Therefore, Jämtland applies a targeted and innovative process. By interviewing 24 newly arrived persons about what factors affect their decision on where to settle, the authorities learned that the persons would more probably accept the settlement offer if it was located close to where they have spent the time waiting for asylum – since many have already come far in their settlement process, building up social networks, having kids in school and maybe initiated an internship or a job. This is something that Jämtlands' authorities have listened to and now try to find housing to offer persons close to where they were settled during the waiting period. The effect has been that the number of persons that choose to stay in the region rather than moving to greater cities or other places elsewhere in Sweden, is rising. In 2014, 71% moved to the place they were offered, compared to 44% in 2012.