Contact points for persons who gained professional qualifications abroad
The project in brief
The State of Austria
The project started in 2013. Since 2016, the contact points for persons with qualifications acquired abroad have been legally anchored. They constitute counselling centres within the meaning of the Recognition and Assessment Act (Section 5 AuBG 2016). The project is ongoing and legally required.
Services by the contact points include individual information (partly provided in native language), counselling on and support in recognition issues; coordination with authorities in charge of recognition or validation (diverse responsibilities); collection, translation and transmission of necessary documents; and assistance with all further steps in the recognition procedure – all free of charge.
One of the main challenges for migrants in the Austrian labour market is finding employment adequate to their education. The main goal of the contact points is to better use recognised refugees’ and other migrants’ professional potential and to ensure qualification-adequate labour market integration for persons, who acquired their vocational skills abroad.
Elements used in facilitation
The Austrian Government views the employment of migrants and of recognised refugees as an important element of the integration process.
Main activities of the Good Practice
- Multilingual counselling; the individual life situation is taken into account;
- Clarifying, whether formal recognition or validation is necessary and reasonable;
- Information on the legal situation regarding individual recognition and survey of all acquired vocational qualifications;
- Information about the Austrian education system and the Austrian labour market;
- Support with the application for recognition and/or assessment;
- Guidance and counselling in the recognition and assessment process, explaining official decisions received, and planning further steps;
- Pointing out supplementary counselling and educational offers as well as funding opportunities, or working out alternatives if recognition is not possible;
- Referral to other institutions or suitable offers in order to make the best possible use of existing competences;
- Additional offers: group counselling, information and exchange events for specific professional groups (e.g. dentists, pharmacists, kindergarten teachers) as well as lectures and specialist events for stakeholders (for the purpose of networking with authorities and other relevant partners, etc.).
The target group are people based in Austria with successfully completed formal qualifications (recognised refugees, newl arrivals and other migrants).
- Close cooperation with the Austrian Public Employment Service (AMS), recognition authorities and assessment offices/evaluation agencies;
- Regional networking with regional governments, social partners, educational institutions and NGOs.
Challenges and how they were overcome
The COVID-19 pandemic was a major challenge for counsellors and clients: Counselling could no longer take place in person, but it was largely done by telephone/video calls or by e-mail. Many people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic were looking for other employment opportunities and wanted to use the time to now have their qualifications acquired abroad recognised or assessed.
How they were overcome
The close cooperation with educational institutions and the recognition and assessment bodies continued during the pandemic.
Results of the Good Practice
Annual counselling numbers have steadily increased since 2013 - from 4,599 migrants in the first year to 8,204 counselled in 2019. In 2020, fewer people were counselled on-site (6,263) due to the COVID-19 pandemic; at the same time, there was a significant increase in the number of telephone and virtual counselling contacts (21,844 in total) in addition to face-to-face counselling contacts.
The contact points (represented by the Vienna Counselling Centre for Migrants) were selected as the best European project on the validation of brought-in competences and were awarded the VINCE Validation Prize 2019.
How the project meets the GCR Objectives
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
The work of the contact points is directed towards labour market integration and integration into society in general.
The work of the contact points will be continued.
Silvia Perfler, Federal Ministry of Labour
Sigrid Röhrich, Federal Ministry of Labour
Norbert Bichl, Counselling Centre for Migrants (coordination office)
Milica Tomic-Schwingenschlögl, Counselling Centre for Migrants (coordination office)