Author(s):Antje Barabasch, Seraina Leumann, Ursula Scharnhorst (presenting)

Conference:ECER 2017

Network:02. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)


Session Information

02 SES 11 B, Integrating the excluded

Paper Session



Chair:Barbara E. Stalder


Labour market integration of refugees in the Swiss labour market

Increasing migration to Switzerland as well as Germany pressures local authorities to respond with measures for successful labour market integration. Distributing individuals into language courses, advising and supporting them in respect to the recognition of degrees and prior learning and channelling adults into preparatory courses for vocational education and training or into apprenticeships are the main tasks (Heckmann 2015). These development steps are ideally framed by career coaches or guidance counsellors. Successful integration depends largely on the governance of the integration process by participating institutions. These governance processes are introduced in the presentation.

At macro-level legal foundations regulating the introduction of refugees into the labour market, including their residential status, work permission and recognition of prior work experience as well as the support for further education will be addressed. There are currently five pathways available that lead to a recognized vocational degree. At the meso-level of governance institutions need to ensure an orderly and timely processing of the formal requirements for the integration process, which should ideally be governed by bottom-up processes in order to respond innovatively to changing requirements. In the framework of Urban Global Governance (Kunzmann 2004; Healey 2004) municipal self-regulating processes are based on new, more individualized governance processes in regional institutions. These require more autonomy which is provided within so called heterarchic (Hedlund 1986) and networking forms of coordination (Fürst 2003). Heterarchy is a form of equal side by side working relationship, where management and operating functions overlap and are manifested in the operating governance. It requires a balance of organizational power structures. The reduction of hierarchy supports the local adaptability of the actors (Hedlund und Rolander 1990). Granovetter (1973, 1985) specifies in this framework the relevance of social relations and interactions and the trust built, which is essential for the functioning of the organization. The relationship history of the individuals in the organization, their common experiences and interconnected engagements as well as values, norms and convictions that resulted from them, shape the character of these networks (Hirsch-Kreinsen 2002). These interrelationships have been studied among two Swiss organizations: Fachorganisation AOZ, Abteilung Berufliche und soziale Integration in Zurich and Fachstelle Integration (FI) of the canton Graubünden. The mico-level of governance of integration is managed by educational institutions that offer bridging courses for refugees who first need to be brought up to a particular level of education in order to than participate in regular vocational education programs.

The guiding questions of the inquiry to be presented are: How is the system of integrating refugees into the labour market governed at the macro, meso and micro level? How do actors operate at these levels? Which challenges do actors face and how do they address them?


The research included document analysis, semi-structured interviews with representatives of various departments of the two institutions Fachorganisation AOZ, Abteilung Berufliche und soziale Integration in Zurich and Fachstelle Integration (FI) (8 persons) of the canton Graubünden as well as semi-structured interviews with teachers in bridging courses in canton Bern (12 persons) and started in February 2016. The last interviews with teachers are currently conducted. Regarding the structural characteristics of the organizations a categorical content analysis has been pursued. The interviews were based on the following questions:
- What is from your perspective the strengths of your organization regarding professional and social integration?
- Which organizational and team-related aspects do you think are highly relevant for integration?
- Where do you see challenges for the future in your organization in relation to integration? How could you respond to these challenges?

For the analysis we used a thematic guideline.
Some of the guiding questions for the VET teachers are:

- How do you address the special needs of refugees in your classroom?
- What are the pedagogic challenges in your everyday work?
- How is the instructional material adapted to the needs of refugees?
- How do you shape the learning environment for refugees?
- What are the specific challenges for your classroom-management?
- What kind of further education and training to you attend or would you need?

These interviews will also be analyzed according to a thematic guideline.

Expected Outcomes

The results of the analysis of governance structures at meso-level has lead to a table which distinguishes the characterizing features of the two institutions which are representative of two diverging organizational approaches. If, as within the example of the Fachstelle Integration in Graubünden, a strong division between different functions of the integration is established, effective and efficient networks within the regional organizations are essential. The domains of social security, labour market integration and education are separated which requires higher coordination effort but leaves the organization to respond quite flexibly to changing needs and a concentration on key competences. Teamwork within the organization is based on high trust and fluid cooperation (Mayntz 1992).
Results for the third part of the study investigating the micro-level of goverance are currently produced and will be ready for the conference.
The presentation will summarize the findings with a reflexive discourse about the specific challenges brought about by the labour market integration of refugees and how they can be addressed.


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Granovetter, M. (1985). Economic action and social structure: The problem of embeddedness. American Journal of Sociology 91, 481–510.
Healey, P. (2004). The treatment of space and place in the new strategic planning in Europe. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 28(1), 45–67.
Heckmann, F. (2015). Strukturelle Integration: Arbeitsmarkt und Wirtschaft. Wiesbaden: Springer.
Hedlund, G. (1986). The hypermodern MNC – a heterarchy? Human Resource Management, 25(1), 9-35.
Hedlund, G. & Rolander, D. (1990). Action in heterarchies - new approaches to managing the MNC. In C. A. Barlett, Y. Doz and G. Hedlund (Hrsg.), Managing the global firm (S.15-46). London: Routledge.
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Kunzmann, K. (2004). Reflexionen über die Zukunft des Raumes. Dortmund: IRPUD.
Mayntz, R. (1992). Modernisierung und die Logik von interorganisatorischen Netzwerken. Journal für Sozialforschung, 32, 19–31.

Author Information

Antje Barabasch
Swiss Federal Institute of Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET)
Research and Development
Seraina Leumann
Swiss Federal Institute of Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET), Switzerland
Ursula Scharnhorst (presenting)
Swiss Federal Institute of Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET), Switzerland