Jugendcollege: training and education for young migrants in Vienna

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Main actors

City Government, Community / Citizen Group, other

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Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region

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Ongoing since 2016/08

Jugendcollege provides free education, training and a mentoring programme for young migrants, asylum seekers and persons entitled to an asylum or subsidiary protection allowance aged between 15 and 21 in Vienna.

As part of Vienna’s “Start Wien” integration initiative,  Jugendcollege helps young migrants lead an independent life by preparing them for further education, vocational training or the workplace. This is achieved through a series of modules in the German language, cultural orientation and personal career development, alongside other social integration activities such as excursions.

With the view that education is crucial to social participation, Jugendcollege supports young migrants in accessing their rights to education and employment and contributes to social cohesion through the reinforcement of common values surrounding gender roles, leisure time, customs and traditions, and mutual learning of the other. The programme operates from two locations in the city and has a total capacity of up to 1000 places.

This case study was developed in the framework of the Mediterranean City-to-City Migration Project (MC2CM), a project coordinated by ICMPD and funded by the European Union and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The MC2CM project has been working since 2015 with Amman, Beirut, Lisbon, Lyon, Madrid, Tangiers, Tunis, Turin and Vienna to increase the knowledge base on urban migration. Additionally the project has sought to nurture a peer-to-peer dialogue and mutual learning on specific urban challenges such as social cohesion, intercultural dialogue, employment and provision of basic services for migrants, among others. This case study was selected by the Municipality of Madrid in order to showcase a practice that contributes to social inclusion of migrants at the local level.

This case study was contributed from the UCLG Learning Team (learning@uclg.org).

Sustainable Development Goals

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Reduce inequality within and among countries
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Vienna, Austria

Size and population development
2011: 1,720,000; 1990: 1,539,000; 2025: 1,943,000; 2010-2015: +0,75%/year

Population composition
its population amounts to one quarter of the population of the country ; nearly 40% of the Viennese population have full or partial migrant background

Main functions
Capital City; cultural, economic, and political center

Main industries / business
mechanical, electrical, chemical, metal, and import industries

Political structure
Vienna has federal state status : Mayoral (mayor also serves as governor) system with a city council

Administrative structure
23 districts

Vienna is the capital city and cultural, economic and political centre of Austria with a population of over 1.8 million. It is the location of many international organisations including the United Nations (UN). Vienna has a long history of migration, especially from neighbouring eastern European countries since the 1950s. The city has seen many waves of migration, including an influx of Hungarian refugees in 1956 and the arrival of migrants from Germany and ‘new’ Eastern European countries in the early 1990s. Since 2013/14, there has been a growing number of refugees from Afghanistan, Iran and Syria. In 2015, 65% of the 118,517 net-migrants came from outside the European Union (EU) with 2/3 of this number coming from these Middle Eastern countries. Migration numbers have since declined, with net migration recorded at approximately 64,600 in 2017.

The government of Austria is a signatory to a number of international laws relating to migrants, including the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. Migration is generally regulated at the national level, however as a federal state, Austria’s provincial governments have their own regulatory rights and access to resources through shares in tax revenues, making them important stakeholders in the field of integration. The city of Vienna forms one of Austria’s nine federal provinces and this has allowed the city to develop and implement its own integration initiatives through the Executive City Councillor for Integration and the Department for Integration and Diversity (MA 17). These departments also fund integration projects implemented by NGOs and local associations.

Following a growing intake of refugees, the initial concept of Jugendcollege was first developed with the Department for Integration and Diversity (MA 17) and various important educational institutions. Following this, the programme’s funding agencies (MA 17, AMS Wien and Social Funds Vienna (FSW)) came together to develop a call for further funding from the European Social Fund (ESF) which was managed and settled by the Vienna Employment Promotion Fund (WAFF). After the call was accepted, applications for the programme were received and a jury consisting of representatives from the funding agencies decided on the winning concept. The concept was approved by sponsors and the project commenced in August 2016.

The overall objective of the programme is to give recently-arrived young migrants the best possible opportunity to join the Austrian education and training system. The programme considers the particular needs of young migrants as individuals; education is viewed as the key to social participation as it allows migrants to advance their careers and contribute to a functioning society through work. This means that migrants who have not completed the asylum process can participate, in line with the initiative’s motto “integration from day one”.

There are two main ways of applying for the Jugendcollege programme. Young migrants can apply through their mentors at the Public Employment Service (AMS Wien) or through an education platform (Bildungsdrehscheibe). All applicants must complete “clearing”, a 1-2 day assessment in which their proficiencies in German and other subjects are tested and an interview with a social-worker is conducted. The most important criteria for acceptance is the motivation of the individual. The majority of the programme’s participants are asylum-seekers and refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia.

Jugendcollege is a modular programme which can be tailored according to every participants existing knowledge, experiences and career goals. Through a total of 20 ½ hours of training and weekly ½ hour mentoring sessions, migrants are taught a series of compulsory and optional modules and receive personal development and career advice. The structure of the programme is very flexible, allowing participants to complete the programme in their own time and around other responsibilities. The maximum stay at the Jugendcolledge is 9 months, although this can be extended under special circumstances.

Core modules in maths, English, ICT and German provide participants with the basic skills required in the Austrian education system and enable them to leave with a compulsory school leaving certificate. Proficiency in the German language is especially important as it facilitates their integration with the host society. Optional modules are selected with the help of a mentor depending on the individual’s professional ambitions and include various training workshops.

Critical participation is a compulsory module that teaches matters relating to political and social coexistence in Austria such as family life, gender roles, racism and discrimination. Participants can also attend further social integration activities such as excursions and are supported if they choose to develop and run  their own courses in different subjects (language courses, cooking classes, sports, art, etc.) which are accessible to the public at the open school. The school acts as a meeting place, facilitating interaction between migrants and the host population, encouraging mutual recognition of otherness as an asset.

Upon completion of Jugendcollege, particpants can attend trial days in local schools or businesses and make contact with potential mentors or employers, before continuing with further education, vocational training or workplace employment. After their next phase of development, they have the option of attending a follow-up session at Juegendcollege in order to discuss their progress.

The programme’s members have the required training to support young migrants. They are trained in how to deal with people who may have experienced trauma; conflict-management and general pedagogical issues. Special support is given to staff who do not have German as a first language. The mentors act as career advisors, social workers and cultural advisers.

Jugendcollege receives €6 million yearly - €4.5 million of external funds and €1.5 million of internal resources. Externally, the European Social Fund (ESF) provides €3 million and the Public Employment Service Vienna (AMS Wien) provides €1.5 million.

Internally, the Department of Integration and Diversity (MA 17) provided €800,000 and Vienna Social Funds (FSW) provided €700,000. This fund receives €1.71 billion annually to deliver social and welfare services on behalf of the City of Vienna.

Since opening in August 2016, 1270 young migrants have enrolled in Jugendcollege and 160 participants have completed the programme and moved onto further training or employment. These participants receive support from the programme to access their basic rights and become active citizens in Vienna.

Jugendcollege encourages mutual learning between migrants and the “host” society. This is especially important as it is through the meeting of these groups and a mutual understanding between them that social cohesion is fostered.

One of the challenges of the programme is to confront the lack of recognition of migrants’ existing qualifications and professional experiences once they reach Vienna. While some of the young migrants may already have professional qualifications awarded by their country-of-origin, these may not be internationally recognised or accepted by Austrian employers. The Youth College directly confronts this problem through its personalised modular programme which allows the young migrants to build on their existing skills and knowledge and to continue their careers in Vienna if they so wish.

Although the programme is a huge source of support in helping young migrants access their right to education and work, as well as their understanding of, and inclusion in, Viennese social life, an on-going challenge is their inability to participate in political life. The lack of voting rights for migrants at both the district and municipal levels has been described as one of the largest obstacles to their political participation in Vienna by all stakeholders of Jugendcollege.

Overall, Jugendcollege plays a crucial role in helping young migrants’ access employment, education and social opportunities on their arrival in Vienna. They are supported “from day one”, in line with the municipality’s motto on integration. Every young person is treated as an individual with their own educational and training needs and career aspirations taken on board. The programme helps to empower its participants while assisting them in entering the work force and becoming active citizens in Vienna as quickly as possible.

The programme helps to foster social cohesion between young migrants and the host society by facilitating meetings between these groups. The open school in particular allows local Viennese people to learn from migrants, providing a platform for mutual learning of the other, between groups of people from different backgrounds who might not otherwise have the chance to meet and get to know each other in the city.

The decision-making autonomy and resources that the Vienna Municipality possesses has made such an inclusive rights-based programme for migrants possible and contributed to its success.

- Interview with Mag. Aydin Tunc (Project Coordinator, Vienna Municipality)

- http://www.interface-wien.at/system/attaches/148/original/Presseunterlage_PK_Jugendcollege_FINAL.pdf?1468593872

- http://www.vhs.at/fileadmin/Jugendcollege/Wegweiser_Das_jugendcollege.pdf

- https://www.waff.at/html/dynimage.aspx?id=396_132053_03_Leistungskatalog_Jugendcollege.pdf&quality=

- https://www.wien.gv.at/menschen/integration/neuzugewandert/info-module-fluechtlinge.html

- https://www.wuk.at/angebot/bildung-und-beratung/jugendcollege/

This case study has been prepared by Anya Cardwell (anya.cardwell.16@ucl.ac.uk) under the coordination of Barbara Lipietz and Tim Wickson from the Bartlett’s Development Planning Unit (DPU), University College of London (UCL) and the UCLG Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy and Human Rights, in the framework of the MC2CM Project.

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