What does the economic integration of refugees look like post covid19?

The response to the economic integration of migrants and refugees has historically been based on entry-level jobs. It is a response that answers a call for urgency – for urgent income generation and financial autonomy. Although this response may demonstrate some immediate positive impacts for society, the long term positive impact is questionable.

When a system pipelines newcomers for entry-level positions based on their lack of local know-how, it is like not seeing the forest for the trees. The focus is on what is missing – not what is already there, or what could be there. Newcomers demonstrate enormous potential for Europe – not only are migrants, refugees and asylum seekers more educated than ever before, but their inherent skills of adaptability, interculturality, complex problem solving and resilience are growing in demand across all sectors of the economy.

Even before the coronavirus crisis, the global community was going through a major economic shift – the way we create, measure and exchange value is changing. As we emerge on the other side of covid19, we find ourselves at a tricky crossroads. Many future of work trends have been accelerated – remote working, non-linear career paths, tech-driven solutions, to name a few. Skillsets that recently seemed necessary two, three years down the line are needed here and now, and the need to upskill the labour market is paramount. Meanwhile many countries are experiencing historically high rates of unemployment and pending recessions – heightening the sense of urgency for immediate income security and generation. 

Following these trends, vulnerable populations, including migrants and refugees, are at a heightened risk of unemployment post covid19 – a situation that requires a rapid response. However, if we don’t apply new systems, there is a risk that migrants and refugees will continue to be pipelined towards low-skilled jobs as a part of an emergency response. We already saw similar trends following the financial crisis of 2008. If actors at all levels of society do not start recognizing and intentionally investing in the potential of newcomers we will continue to squander a truly limitless resources – it will be an error of the past that we truly cannot afford today. 

We need new voices in leadership positions across sectors. New voices, new points of view, new ideas will be key in building the new normal. Migrants and refugees, in addition to a multitude of essential skills for the workplace 2.0, have all of these.

To unlock the potential of newcomer talent for our societies, PLACE and Ecole des Ponts Business School are teaming up to create the Certificate in Innovation and Technology Management. A certified program for newcomers to acquire the skills needed for tomorrow – today. Over 6 months, migrants and refugees will develop their resilience, relevance and competitiveness for the future of work thanks to innovation-based learning methodology, immersion in professional networks and access to expert faculty and coaches. The ambition for this program is to create a fast-track pipeline for newcomers to access meaningful work in dynamic sectors – to change from underemployment of newcomers to the optimization of newcomer talent.

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