|Programme Title||Upskilling Adults 45+ with Migrant Background|
|Implementing Organization||Romanian Institute for Adult Education|
|Language of Instruction||Romanian|
|Date of Inception||2019|
|Programme Partners||International Labour Association (Netherlands), Weltgewandt, Institut für interkulturelle politische Bildung e.V. (Germany), ACTION SYNERGY SA (Greece), Emprende Empleo European Network (Spain)|
|Funding||Erasmus + Programme of the European Union|
|Annual Programme Costs||USD 84,964.14|
|Annual Programme Cost per Learner||n/a|
|Annual cost of the digital tool||n/a|
|Digital tool(s) used||Smartphone, computer, tablet, Moodle, Teachable, Europass, Skills Panorama|
|Target population||Adults with a migrant background|
|Learner to instructor ratio||5:1|
|Target skill(s)||Basic literacy skills, basic education skills, digital and soft skills for social and professional inclusion|
The European Union has received hundreds of thousands of migrants in the last few years. UN Dispatch estimates that 138,000 people migrated to Europe to escape war and poverty in the year 2018 alone (UN Dispatch, 2020). Most newcomers are legally regarded as refugees and travel across the Mediterranean Sea from countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan (Clayton et al., 2015). It has been widely reported in the media that Europe faces overwhelming challenges in relation to the influx of refugees in recent years, including addressing their educational needs and integration into the labour market. In 2014, only 56 per cent of refugees were employed across the European Union (OECD, 2016, p. 17). Even if they possess the same education levels as a native-born EU worker, it can take up to 20 years for migrants to catch up in the labour market (OECD, 2016, p. 21). Migrants face challenges such as foreign language acquisition and discriminatory hiring practices, which further their exclusion in their new communities.
For older migrants especially, gaps in digital literacy often leave them overlooked in the labour market, as jobs are given to younger adults who possess superior technological skills. Access to technology varies across the EU. In Romania, where the ICT sector is still growing, 61 per cent of households have a computer (Marica, 2015). Meanwhile, Germany has invested heavily in technology in recent years, giving computer access to 92 per cent of its residents (World Bank, 2020). Whether or not adult migrants have access to a computer, their familiarity and skills with many technologies is limited, making them unqualified for the digital demands of the modern workforce.
The Upskilling Adults 45+ project was created for a specific group: adult migrants aged 45 and older. The Romanian Institute for Adult Education (IREA) cites a dire need to provide training and skills for this community so that they can integrate into the workforce both in Romania and across Europe, especially as the average retirement age is rising (UA, 2020).
The Upskilling Adults 45+ (UA) programme, spearheaded by the IREA in Romania, aims to train instructors and educational providers across the European Union to educate this specific learner population. By professionalizing adult educators, the overall quality of adult education is improved, increasing participation in adult education overall.
Overview of the programme
The UA programme is a project of IREA that partners with several entities within both Romania and the EU at large. It is designed to train facilitators and provide services for educational providers that focus on upskilling middle-aged adult migrants of all genders so that they can thrive in the modern workforce. The project recognizes that migrant adults aged 45-plus constitute a vulnerable population. They face difficulties (re)integrating into the labour market due to (long-term) unemployment, de-skilling and a competency gap. Moreover, since society is ageing, this age group is increasing in size.
The project focuses on tackling the difficulties of (re)insertion into the labour market faced by migrant communities from both inside and outside the EU, including return migrants (individuals who return to their home country after a long stay abroad). The project aims to develop integrated solutions for adult education providers to support (re)migrants aged 45+ to acquire basic skills such as entrepreneurship, digital and soft skills, and/or to validate their competences. The overall objective of the programme is to further the integration of these adults into both the labour market and society by equipping them with basic skills, thus helping them to overcome the barriers that prevent them from participating consistently in the workforce.
The UA project has formed partnerships with the following entities:
- Institutul Român de Educaţie a Adulţilor (Coordinator)
- International Labour Association (Netherlands)
- Institut für interkulturelle politische Bildung e.V. (Germany)
- Action Synergy SA (Greece)
- Emprende Empleo European Network (Spain)
- Fundatia romano-germana de pregatire si perfectionare profesionala in domeniul constructiilor (Romania)
These stakeholders are involved in programme development, aiming to prepare learners to work throughout the EU. In order to maximize impact, the programme was integrated into an existing European Union programme, providing many more contextual benefits. The most appropriate programme for such a fusion was Erasmus+, Key Action (2), which supports cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices. Key Action (2) was regarded as the most suitable partner programme because it enables organizations to work together to improve provision for learners and share innovative practices within and beyond the participating organizations. The partnership with Erasmus+ was crucial in increasing the positive impact of European activities at all levels, ensuring benefits for the individuals, organizations and countries involved in the various projects. The UA programme recognizes that strategic partnerships offer a flexible and effective way of working with partners from different countries, helping to share, develop, transfer and/or implement innovative practices at organizational, local, regional, national and European levels.
The programme prides itself on its innovative approach, particularly as regards the choice of target group. UA is aimed at adults who face multiple barriers, including their age (45-plus), their background as migrants and/or return migrants, deficiencies in basic skills, and living in disadvantaged rural or small town areas. These barriers are addressed with a combination of services tailored to the learners’ situations and interests, and with their future success in mind. The programme equips learners with a mix of digital and soft skills which allow them to access the labour market in flexible ways, including self-employment.
In terms of implementation, concrete tasks include:
- organizing and preparing programme content via focus groups and meetings with beneficiaries, stakeholders and associated partners;
- drafting administrative documents and contracts;
- making practical arrangements for multiplier events and training courses;
- selecting and training course participants;
- implementing the quality assurance plan.
The overall aim of the programme is to improve the quality of adult education by identifying ways to increase older adults´ participation in learning and strengthening lifelong learning at individual and institutional levels. These objectives are aligned with the main research directions within IREA, which focus on professionalization of adult educators, the impact of new media on adult learning, intergenerational learning, active ageing, developing support services, social inclusion and active citizenship through education.
More specifically, the UA programme lists the following objectives (UA, 2020):
- To design dedicated programmes to train staff working with adults 45+, tested as part of the project by 18 educators.
- To provide tailored, holistic services for adults aged 45+ from migrant backgrounds, so that they can access the labour market and actively participate in their community. This involves creating a combination of validation services and training offers (for upskilling), together with guidance on entrepreneurial initiatives and how to find a job.
- To develop a two-pronged learning strategy: digital skills and soft skills that can be adapted to different contexts and target groups.
Photos: Mehmet Altunbas, ILA
The programme proposes three ‘intellectual outputs’ (IOs) or work packages in order to achieve the above objectives:
1. A manual for basic skills awareness and understanding of adults aged 45+ with migrant backgrounds
(Re)insertion into the labour market, identifying and validating existing competences, and addressing the skills gap.
Professionals in adult education and counsellors/trainers will be provided with helpful tools and guidance on how to identify adult migrants’ strengths and weaknesses and how to address them by combining existing specialized training or validation services.
2. A training package to meet national regulations for certified training
A training package with two modules: digital skills and soft skills.
Components include an introduction on how to use an online educational platform; how to use a mobile device and apps or programmes such as Gmail, Facebook, WhatsApp, Google Drive; and how to create an online skills portfolio.
Using the internet to access various thematic sites on recruiting staff, creating a CV, e-banking, e-shopping, etc.
Flexibility of use by adult migrants.
The soft skills include cultural awareness, communication skills, social skills, learning to learn, political competences, enabling active citizenship and participation.
Guidelines and examples on design training.
Trainers and migrants (participants)
3. Evaluation and validation tools
Evaluate and validate existing competences
Development sector and transversal skills
Table 1: Intellectual outputs.
Although not yet realized, these IOs will be used by adult educators in six partner organizations. Each partner organization is to have three staff members, bringing the number to 18 in total. These 18 trainers will each hold four training courses in their home countries using this toolkit and the results will be shared in the final report, accompanied by a dissemination guide. It is important to highlight that addressing soft skills is a particularly innovative element of these IOs.
The UA has piloted a programme that trained 18 instructors to deliver educational services to learner migrants aged 45 and older, with a particular emphasis on providing services to women. With a better understanding of the backgrounds and skill sets of these learners, teachers can provide better instruction. The training provided by the IREA programme prepares them accordingly.
Many migrant learners in this age category have previously held jobs as caregivers to the elderly and in construction and agriculture. These learners face the common barriers of ageism, lower access to and usage of ICT, and living in disadvantaged areas that prevent them from successful inclusion in the workforce. Moreover, they routinely face challenges in four similar sectors: insertion and reinsertion into the job market, lack of recognition of existing competencies, receiving payment for work completed both in and outside Romania, and language barriers. Learners may leave home to work for a period of time, only to experience difficulties finding work when they return. Since they are considered “older”, they are passed over for certain positions, and some of the skills they possess may now be considered outdated or unnecessary. They often lack sufficient English language skills to qualify for certain jobs.
Learners often face similar difficulties as regards ICT. They may be familiar with certain programmes or applications, but do not use them. For example: they use smartphones daily, but not necessarily a computer. Most of the learners have a Facebook account and use WhatsApp to communicate with friends and family. However, their digital skills do not extend beyond this: they have probably never applied for a job online. They do not do online banking and have limited abilities in writing and editing documents. This low skill level can prevent them from competing for certain jobs.
The enrolment of both teachers and learners occurs primarily through connections with the six partner organizations, since many learners in the programme were already enrolled in classes run by these organizations.
In order to be considered for enrolment, learners were required to be 45 years or older and to be a migrant to the country in which they live. A total of 90 migrant adult learners were enrolled in the programme. As an initial diagnostic tool, they were given a questionnaire to fill out by the partner organizations. The rationale for conducting a questionnaire was to help develop a concurrent research study in each country and to assess the migrant learners’ existing digital skills and soft skills. The results from this and the questionnaire for trainers (see sub-section ‘Recruitment and training of facilitators’ below) were then summarized in a national research report.
The questionnaire for migrants included open-ended questions about the prospective learner’s professional qualification(s) and/or certificate(s), skills, and work experience. The questionnaire also asked migrant learners about their skills in using digital devices, sharing/creating content on Web 2.0 and social media platforms (e.g. Dropbox, Google Apps, Facebook, Instagram). Questions on programming and website construction were also included. A third part of the questionnaire enquired about the applicant’s learning and communication skills, confidence in his/her abilities, learning and training goals, and motivation. The questionnaire ended with questions on demographic information including age, gender, country of current residence, and country of origin.
Figure 1: Migrant questionnaire, pages 1 and 2. (Source: Upskilling 45+ Migrants Questionnaire, 2020)
The complete pre-assessment needs-analysis questionnaires and a summarizing report can be accessed as follows:
Ninety learners were enough to fill the classes of the 18 teachers in the first cohort. The learners were not surveyed to measure educational or employment gains, but the IREA acknowledges the need to do so with future cohorts.
Since the programme is still in the development stage, learning outcomes have not yet been assessed. The IREA has announced a longitudinal evaluation of results regarding the quality of programme development. It realizes that ‘outcomes evaluation is a very important and fundamental process in any programme or project in order to ensure success’.
The programme is expected to result in tangible materials and teaching guidelines that can be adapted and used throughout the EU. The programme intends to improve the quality of adult education and participation of migrant learners aged over 45 years by ensuring that instructors are trained to meet and understand their needs. It also intends to familiarize the learners with ICT so as to secure them a solid place in the workforce.
Teaching and learning approaches
As part of its educational delivery services to adult learner migrants, the UA programme seeks to professionalize the instructors who educate them. Three categories of intellectual output (IO) have been provided for instructors to assist with the proper and professional delivery of educational material as a result of the work completed by the IREA and its partner organizations.
IO1: Manual for basic skills awareness and understanding of adults aged 45+ with migrant backgrounds.
IO2: Training package with two modules: digital skills and soft skills, with a user guide for trainers.
IO3: Updated tools for evaluation and validation of existing competences in the construction sector, and for transversal skills.
IO1 is a manual developed for teachers to familiarize them with the needs of adult learners, including basic skills awareness. Special care has been taken to acquaint instructors with the specific needs of over-45 migrants and to consider how teaching methods might need to be adapted to optimize output.
IO2 is a training package that includes two modules that cover digital skills and soft skills. The material is designed to be amended to fit local contexts and targets migrant learners aged over 45.
IO3 is a toolkit for educators that covers evaluation and validation for the learners. It will be updated according to local and EU requirements in order to provide learners with certificates and other documentation of their participation in the programme modules.
The project planners and developers included research-informed and best teaching practices in its instructional design. Needs analyses were conducted for both teachers and learners. However, the outputs and materials for the programme appear to be still in the development phase. Overall curriculum decisions are made as a committee, with a built-in capacity to tweak content according to local contexts and learner needs. This is important because the project encompasses five countries with different contexts. IREA states flexibility and adaptability as key aspects of the programme. For example, if a migrant has already acquired a competence or ability, she/he can move on to the next level without going through the beginner level. The courses are organized from beginner to advanced level.
Recruitment and training of facilitators
Teachers taking part in the programme were already employed by the partner organizations. The partners selected three instructors each, using a ‘motivation letter’ provided by teacher candidates for selection. In the letters the candidates demonstrated their prior experience in teaching adults and expressed their desire to work with the migrant learner populations. Candidates also attended an in-person interview with a programme manager.
Trainers were also given a questionnaire to be filled in before their admission to the programme. The questions included biographical information on the trainer’s age, gender, profession, country of current residence, and country of origin. Since these trainers were already working with partner organizations, the questionnaire focused on their existing learners’ professional qualifications, digital skills, and abilities in creating and sharing online content. An open-ended question on existing learners’ main characteristics also formed part of the questionnaire.
Figure 2: Trainers’ questionnaire, pages 3 and 4. (Source: Upskilling 45+ Migrants Questionnaire, 2020)
The complete pre-assessment needs analysis questionnaire and a summarizing report can be accessed as follows:
The programme reports giving special consideration to the professional development of its instructors, with structures provided for the delivery of educational services. Instructors are encouraged to share ideas and innovative practices, so that the overall goal of the socialization and professionalization of learners can be achieved. The partners selected three participants each for a total of 18 in the first cohort. These groups came together to devise and implement the instructional design of the course.
Technology: Infrastructure, management and use
Infrastructure and management
The IREA programme seeks to equip teachers with methods of instruction that will enhance the digital skills of migrant learners aged 45 plus so that they can compete in the workforce. While classes are held in person in adult education centres in the countries of the partner organizations, teachers are tasked with familiarizing their learners with the various learning platforms and educational software that are used in the workforce in general. Learners will learn how to use a Learning Management System (LMS) such as Moodle or Teachable during their courses. Using an LMS as a part of their classwork in a virtual classroom space will enhance the learners’ digital literacy skills.
Teachers will be trained to provide quality instruction to learners in order to create a curriculum vitae (CV) that will be posted on Europass-CV (Europass is a European Union website that helps users manage their education and career). Learners will learn how to create their own online skills portfolio. They will become familiar with the use of Gmail, Skype, and other ICTs commonly used in the workforce. They will also learn about recruitment and job search sites on the internet.
The ICTs introduced during the courses will synergize with the support instruments available throughout the EU: ESCO (European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations), Europass, Learning Opportunities and Qualifications in Europe, and Skills Panorama, so that skills acquired during the programme are easily applicable in other locations throughout Europe.
The participating organizations also use ICT in order to coordinate the instructional design of the courses. They hold regular online meetings throughout the development process, another method of ensuring that teachers are equipped to pass on these skills to their learners.
UA reports on the existing use of digital devices by the migrant learners. This information was collected via the questionnaire that was conducted at the time of enrolment. Although the data do not cover learners´ use of technology in general or ICT in particular as a result of the programme, Figure 3 provides some background on the use of technology by both instructors and learners at the outset of the programme.
Figure 3 shows that trainers make heavy use of smartphones, ranging from once a week to everyday use. Tablets are used to a lesser extent: between once a month and never. Meanwhile, the use of computers is more evenly distributed. Some trainers have never used a computer, while others use one every two weeks to every day. The use of computers is more constant than the use of other digital devices.
USE OF DIGITAL DEVICES BY TRAINERS
Figure 3: Use of digital devices by the trainers in the UA programme (Source: IREA and FRG, 2020)
The use of digital devices by adult migrant learners is also reported by the IREA. Figure 4 shows similar patterns of use by learners as by trainers. Smartphones are the most commonly used digital tool, used by most learners almost every day. Tablets remain the least used digital tool among learners, as with trainers. Lastly, the use of computers is variable, with some learners reporting use every two weeks to once a week. However, most learners report that they have never used a computer.
USE OF DIGITAL DEVICES BY LEARNERS
Figure 4: Use of digital devices by the migrant learners in the UA programme (Source: IREA and FRG, 2020)
Programme impact and challenges
Impact and achievements
The UA project has produced tangible educational materials as an open resource that can be used by educational providers. It will provide the materials developed by the project free of charge to interested parties for five years. The 18 instructors trained in the original cohort can, in turn, share their knowledge with other educational communities and train others to replicate the work. The organizational stakeholders will continue to offer instruction to this learner population for at least two years after the completion of the project.
The programme lists several general and specific benefits to beneficiaries including the learners, facilitators, and the community at large. The table below summarizes these benefits.
Benefits to participants
Benefits to facilitators
Benefits to community
• the migrants/return migrants will learn how to identify their needs related to adult learning, helping to facilitate their access to the labour market
• increase their capacity to work with low-skilled individuals, particularly with migrants and return migrants
• the quality of community life will improve through these migrants who will improve their digital and soft skills
• they will learn how to reflect and use their prior learning experiences that before the project may have been forgotten and never used
• they will discover the importance of literacy and be able to take advantage of its benefits
• they will be part of a digital competence process that will make their competences more marketable on the labour market
• they will learn how to use soft skills in their professional activity (these beneficiaries are definitely not aware of the statistically proven impact of soft skills on the labour market)
• last but not least, all 90 beneficiaries will interact with the project team, with other migrants/return migrants and with other stakeholders (company representatives, employment department staff, etc.)
• will benefit from the project as they will develop some very specific skills and competences
• they will better manage their time and professional resources
• they will learn how to coordinate with other staff members
• they will become more acquainted with international projects and international cooperation
• the community will have more competent and socially integrated people at work
• It will be possible to create learning communities
Table 2: General and specific benefits of the programme
Photo credit to Denisa Mariana Centea
Upskilling Adults 45+ with Migrant Backgrouds : Adult Education Strategic Partnership Project kick-off meeting, Timisoara, Romania, 17–18 December 2019.
The COVID-19 crisis poses a challenge to the UA programme, as virtual education is a necessity in most parts of Europe at the time of publication of this report. As digital skills are a primary focus of instruction, this poses difficulties as regards basic programming: teaching digital skills in a virtual format is certainly more challenging than face-to-face instruction.
Another challenge faced by the project involves the coordination of instructors and stakeholders spread throughout Europe.
Stakeholders and partnerships
The project is a multifaceted coordination of providers, teachers and learners across Europe, overseen by the IREA. Action Synergy SA (Greece), Weltgewandt Institut für interkulturelle politische Bildung eV (Germany), Internationale Arbeidsvereniging (Netherlands), Emprende Empleo European Network (Spain), and the Romanian-German Foundation for professional training and improvement in the field of construction (Romania) came together on the project, whose impact reaches across the European Union. The work is intended to be adaptable to local contexts and to provide the option of EU certifications for the learners who take the courses.
The project website indicates that it receives partial funding from the EU Erasmus Plus Programme. This programme ‘support[s] education, training, youth and sport…. In addition to offering grants, Erasmus+ also supports teaching, research, networking, and policy debate on EU topics’ (European Union, 2020).
Facilitators are volunteers who receive extensive training on working with the learner population and come from the five countries listed. They are required to have high English language proficiency and to demonstrate an ability and interest in working with the over 45 migrant population in particular. The facilitators created a community of practice to share experience and innovation throughout the project. It is expected that the pilot facilitators will share their knowledge in their home country and context, thus improving the overall quality of instruction for this group of learners.
The Upskilling Adults 45+ programme was always intended to be replicated and reused by other educational providers. The training provided to facilitators results in a learner population that can seamlessly fit into the modern workforce. The IREA intends to continue to advocate for the migrant community aged 45+ across Europe, attempting to raise awareness about the needs of this community and how to address them.
In terms of assessment, the IREA reports that the impact of the course on participants was not considered at the planning stage. However, once the programme concludes, IREA plans to ask all participating migrants to answer a questionnaire about the impact the course had on their family life, career, social life, etc.
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European Union. 2020. About Europass. [online] Available at: https://europa.eu/europass/en/about-europass [Accessed 19 November 2020].
European Union. 2020. Erasmus+ Funding Programme. [online] Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/info/education/set-projects-education-and-training/erasmus-funding-programme_en [Accessed 19 November 2020].
IREA (Romanian Institute for Adult Education) and FRG (Fundatia Romano-Germana) Timisoara. 2020. Need analysis Report Romania. [online] Available at: https://www.frgtim.ro/Upskilling/IREA_UPAM45_national_report.pdf [Accessed 19 November 2020].
Marcia, I. 2015. Statistics: 61% of Romanian households own a computer and have access to the internet. [online] Romania Insider. Available at: https://www.romania-insider.com/statistics-61-of-romanian-households-own-a-computer-and-have-access-to-the-internet [Accessed 12 Feb 2021].
OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). 2016. How are refugees faring on the labour market in Europe? [pdf] Available at: https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/87a8f92d-9aa8-11e6-868c-01aa75ed71a1 [Accessed 12 Feb 2021].
UA (Upskilling Adults 45+). 2020. Outputs: Upskilling 45+. [online] Available at: http://www.upskilling.ilabour.eu/outputs/ [Accessed 19 November 2020].
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UN Dispatch. 2020. European Union Releases Facts and Figures for Migrant and Refugees Arrivals in 2018. [online] Available at: https://www.undispatch.com/european-union-releases-facts-and-figures-for-migrant-and-refugees-arrivals-in-2018/ [Accessed 9 November 2020].
World Bank. 2020. Access to computers from home. [online] Available at: https://tcdata360.worldbank.org/indicators/acc.cpu.home?country=DEU&indicator=30&viz=line_chart&years=2005,2017 [Accessed 11 Feb 2021].
 Erasmus+ is the European Commission's Programme for education, training, youth, and sport for the period 2014–2020, succeeding the previous Lifelong Learning Programme. For more information, visit: Erasmus+ | EU programme for education, training, youth and sport (europa.eu).
 Key Action (2) or Key Actions (also referred to as Actions) is the collective name for activities and projects that can be funded under Erasmus+. For more information, visit: Key Action 2 | Erasmus+ (erasmusplus.org.uk).
 Upskilling 45+ Migrants Questionnaire: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1wEi8sbfbeJP18dbX6wigE7pF2m-bkUaV/view
 Upskilling 45+ Migrants Questionnaire: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1wEi8sbfbeJP18dbX6wigE7pF2m-bkUaV/view