Wallonia expects 4 500 adult refugees to settle in the region in 2016. The Minister for Employment, Éliane Tillieux, has proposed a socio-occupational integration programme to support the process of finding employment for these migrants. Once refugee status has been granted, those concerned have access, like every other jobseeker, to all the services provided by FOREM (the Walloon office for occupational training and placement), as well as to other stakeholders in the socio-occupational integration sector.
Each new arrival will be assigned a personal job coach. Following assessment and interviews, these new jobseekers can attend training modules (leading to qualification), receive guidance and support to find a job, plus assistance to have their skills recognised. With additional budgets and staff, FOREM could carry out more precise skill screenings. FOREM wants to be very clear: there is no question of giving preference to migrants who settle in Wallonia over other jobseekers: ‘They will all have access to the same services, without any positive discrimination’ stresses the FOREM spokesperson.
In Brussels, several organisations have already taken action. Bruxelles Formation and the SFPME are using an ‘occupational situation’ tool which enables them to validate the real aptitudes of candidates, without having to go through a written examination which is a priori discrimination. Tried and tested on 31 000 candidates, the tool has a success rate ranging from 76% to 78%. The certificate issued is recognised by the three Belgian regional governments. It not only enables candidates to resume their studies with exemption, but sometimes also to apply directly for employment.
One major obstacle remains: not all new arrivals meet the conditions necessary to apply directly for a job. ‘Some are close to succeeding: they have a trade, albeit slightly sub-par in relation to local standards. This is often the case with electricians or assistant accountants, who know VAT in their country of origin, but not the workings of Belgian taxation,’ explains the head of the Skill Recognition Consortium. ‘Above all, these people must be sufficiently proficiently in French or Dutch so that they can take up employment.’ Accordingly, Alphaval, a technical and linguistic reinforcement tool, provides a two-week intensive course. With appropriate subsidies, it will be able to provide even more effective advice and support to new arrivals for the recognition of their skills and, ultimately, for employment.