Improving the system for the professional integration of refugees


Innosuisse supports an innovation project that aims to better integrate refugees into the Swiss labour market. This project, which is being carried out between the associations and several universities of applied sciences, is based on social sciences and aims to develop an improved training method.

Better social and professional integration of statutory refugees or persons temporarily admitted to Switzerland. This is the aim of the innovation project IMIRIS — Improved Integration for Refugees in Switzerland. This project, launched in January 2020, is being carried out together with the Vaudois Association 1951, the Lausanne University of Applied Sciences in Social Work and Health (HETSL), the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), and the Valais University of Teacher Education (HEP VS). This partnership aims to study the training system currently implemented by the Association 1951, identify its key success factors with a goal of improving it and to make it available to other players in the field at national level.

Association 1951 has been working for the integration of refugees for several years through its training and professional integration program, “FIP Emploi”. The courses offered, such as French, computer skills and budgetary planning, give refugees the opportunity to acquire the basic knowledge needed to obtain an internship, training, or a job. For Stephan Steiner, the association's president, access to employment is essential. “It enables refugees to become financially self-sufficient and thus relieves the burden on public finances. It also makes them feel better about themselves. In today's society, paid work is an important factor of integration.

Promoting and disseminating an innovative training system
The IMIRIS project aims to develop training programmes adapted to the needs of the participants and to set up a monitoring system to evaluate their impact. In the long term, the aim is to have programmes that can be used “turnkey” by the institutions active in the field of the integration of refugees at national level. To develop such a formalised and effective training system, it is first necessary to understand the needs, practices, and concerns of the individuals involved for the socio-professional integration of refugees. In particular, interviews were conducted with participants in the “FIP Emploi” programme. Information on the course of their life since their arrival in Switzerland was collected and their expectations and feelings regarding integration were deciphered. Institutional stakeholders were also invited and questioned.

In a field where situations vary greatly from one individual to another, the challenges are manifold. “The heterogeneity of refugees’ backgrounds is a real difficulty for support professionals. This difficulty is all the greater in that it is combined with the complexity of the existing asylum systems. In the Canton of Vaud, as elsewhere, various institutions are involved in the care of refugees. The issues of institutional coordination are therefore particularly salient,” explains Morgane Kuehni, a professor at the University of Applied Sciences in Social Work and Health.


Social sciences as a basis for study
Three research partners are joining forces to conduct this study. “The expertise of the researchers and the combination of quantitative and qualitative methodological approaches specific to the various institutions are valuable and indispensable tools for the project,” says Stephan Steiner, for whom the assistance of Innosuisse is also an undeniable asset. “This support allows our association to reduce the financial investment required for the research work leading to the design of our programme. »

The project mobilises a transdisciplinary approach in social sciences. “This approach provides a solid theoretical and methodological basis for understanding phenomena as complex as refugees’ journeys and the issues relating to their socio-professional integration, but also for analysing institutional arrangements or questioning the practices of the professionals who support them,” adds Morgane Kuehni.

The research currently being conducted will enable the Association 1951 to improve its training and support services. Today, according to those in charge of the project, the challenge is still to find a way to offer individualised and innovative support to refugees, while considering the institutional and political context that wishes to increase the efficiency of care by standardising paths and practices.

Last modification 09.07.2021

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