Group photo of the attendees of the Madrid CONNECTION meeting
Madrid meeting of the CONNECTION community of practice on pathways to employment

Written by Richard Williams and Dirk Gebhardt

How can European cities address the relatively high rates of unemployment among their migrant residents? Would it help if support for getting into work was better coordinated with integration services? Officials from Sofia, Tampere, Antwerp, Karditsa, Brest and Madrid, came together as a community of practice in the Spanish capital in November 2021, to see for themselves how this might be achieved.

The community of practice had been formed under the auspices of CONNECTION, a peer-learning project coordinated by Eurocities, with the support of the European Commission’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF). The study visit was a core element of a process of learning exchange developed and facilitated by MigrationWork.

While labour market policies in Spain are a predominantly regional competence, the City of Madrid has had its own employment agency since 2004. In partnership with local businesses, the agency offers clients support with developing a “viaje al empleo” (work journey), job placement and matching, and vocational training. Although about 23% of its clients are not Spanish, the services offered are not adapted to the specific needs of migrants, such as language support or the recognition of foreign qualifications.

People seated around a table discussing coordinated planning
Enacting coordination between different services at the staff exchange in Antwerp

Separately from the employment agency, the city’s integration department commissions an NGO, La Rueca, to provide integration support that includes employment services such as training and job placements alongside legal advice and language training. La Rueca’s support is highly personalised and, unlike the employment agency, it provides services to migrants without a valid residence permit.

Madrid staff had identified their key objective for the project as improving the coordination of the employment support offered by the mainstream employment agency and La Rueca.

Through observation, informal interviews and discussion, and structured action learning sessions, the community of practice identified key steps towards better coordination:

  1. map existing resources in the employment agency and integration services provider
  2. divide tasks clearly between the two services
  3. create a simple referral procedure
  4. develop a joint employment trajectory for migrant job seekers.

When thinking about ways to develop a joint case management by the two services, the colleagues from Madrid could take inspiration from what they had seen in a staff exchange in Antwerp earlier on in the project: the Antwerp model of joint client intake: Antwerp colleagues had simulated during the staff exchange their approach to joint case management consisting of the regional employment service, the city’s one stop shop for migrants and the local social welfare department discussing together how to best support each individual migrant job seeker with the different tools each of them had at their disposal. This was an impressive demonstration of the potential of coordination to better Seeing how coordination helps to better meet each client’s needs with the different support tools the services have at their disposal.

The Madrid meeting also underlined that the high unemployment rates of migrants in many European cities exist alongside labour shortages, in spite of the pandemic, in lower skill areas, as well as sectors demanding high formal qualifications. Improving services to better connect people without jobs with the growing number of jobs without people is one of the key tasks many cities face today.