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Spouses of foreign workers need jobs

Many companies want to recruit and maintain high-skilled workers from abroad, but doing so is difficult if the accompanying spouse is unable to find a job. Lyngby-Taarbæk City of Knowledge has great success with a mentoring programme that helps accompanying spouses with the job hunt.
Rodrigo Alves holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry and came to Denmark when his wife got a job. Today, about 20% of accompanying spouses are men, estimates Mette Rønning Steffensen, who leads a mentoring programme that helps accompanying spouses find work. Photo: The Association Lyngby-Taarbæk City of Knowledge

Publiceret: 15.06.2017
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“I would never have moved to Denmark with my wife if there hadn’t been job opportunities for me. So that was a condition for us when she said yes to the job,” says Rodrigo Alves.

He is originally from Portugal, holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry and worked in the Netherlands for ten years before moving to Denmark with his wife in 2014, because she got a job with Haldor Topsøe. And Rodrigo Alves and his wife are far from the only family in the international job market that feels this way.

In fact, it is one of the first questions many foreign specialists ask when they are offered a job in a Danish company.

See also: Lack of employees can curb growth

A programme for spouses

Particularly aware of the problem is Mette Rønning Steffensen, who has spent several years working with high-skilled foreigners and their families. She is currently heading a mentoring programme for accompanying spouses under the auspices of the Association Lyngby-Taarbæk City of Knowledge, which has helped people like Rodrigo Alves get started.

“The project is rooted in a desire on the part of our member companies and DTU to better retain their foreign specialists. To this end, the spouse’s opportunities for getting a job are decisive. It is also an advantage for companies during recruitment itself that they are able to offer the spouse a programme like this,” explains Mette Rønning Steffensen.

The mentoring programme is a four-month long course in which volunteers offer feedback in connection with an accompanying spouse’s job hunt. Mentors and job seekers meet in groups as well as on a one-to-one basis.

See also: I have already been offered jobs abroad twice, but I would prefer to stay

Feedback creates positive results

The courses have good results, shows an evaluation from 2016. In a team of 14 participants, 57% were in jobs 6 months upon completion of the course. In addition, one participant had started a company, while another was undertaking a traineeship. Only 21% were still looking for work.

“Some of them would most likely have found jobs anyway, but having the expertise and network of a local at your disposal improves your chances and your confidence and helps you avoid the classic rookie mistakes,” says Mette Rønning Steffensen.

A typical mistake could for example be misdirecting your job hunt because you are not familiar with Danish job titles and the structure of the job market.

“If can also be difficult to write up applications and CVs so that they align with the expectations of Danish companies - and understanding the unspoken rules that apply during job interviews in Denmark,” explains Mette Rønning Steffensen.

See also: Foreign nationals to plugt shortfall of IT-sepcialists in Denmark

Spouses are highly qualified

It is, in fact, rarely the professional qualifications of spouses that are the issue. The lack of network can, however, pose a big challenge. This was the case for Rodrigo Alves, for example.

“In the beginning, I sent my CV to lots of companies but received hardly any feedback, even though people around me were saying that with my qualifications, it ought to be easy to get a job. But the thing is that if you don’t have a network, it’s very difficult to compete,” he says.

Through the mentoring programme, he was able to expand his network and get a clearer idea of what Danish companies expect. In the end, it was indeed networking that led him to his current position as a researcher at biochemical company MS-Omics.

“A mentor can spare you many of the frustrations you might have if you’re sitting on your own, submitting your CV without getting any replies,” says Rodrigo Alves, who will soon have lived in Denmark for four years and has had a daughter in the meantime.

DI supports new initiatives

For Linda Duncan Wendelboe, head of DI Global Talent, the positive experiences from the mentoring programme come as no surprise. Indeed, figures in the report “Are high-skilled immigrants a good investment for Denmark?” show that foreign workers have significantly higher chances of still being in Denmark after five years if their spouse has found a job.

“We are therefore pleased that more private and public players are developing concrete initiatives that will bring these often high-skilled and very competent spouses closer to the job market,” says Linda Duncan Wendelboe.

The City of Knowledge is currently working on developing a guide so that others will be able to replicate the concept.

FACTS - about the mentoring programme
The Association Lyngby-Taarbæk City of Knowledge is responsible for the coordination of the mentoring programme. The other involved parties are companies such as Haldor Topsøe, Microsoft, COWI, Maersk Drilling and the Technical University of Denmark (DTU).
The mentoring programme is supported by the Danish Industry Foundation in the period 2015-2017 and will continue running in autumn off purely private funds.
Read more at www.vidensby.dk

I would never have moved to Denmark with my wife if there hadn’t been job opportunities for me.
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PUBLISHED: 6/15/2017 LAST MODIFIED: 6/17/2017