“Intra-EU Mobility Guarantee Program”: Operationalizing Innovative and Resourceful Measures to Support Mid-career Professional in Re-entering the Labour Market

According to the 2016 EUROFOUND report on gender gap and employment in Europe, “The cost of a woman’s exclusion from employment throughout her working life is estimated at between 1.2 million and 2 million, depending on her education level”[1]. Hence, I found myself intrigued and hopeful when I read the following article: “The Youth Guarantee in practice: Tina’s journey from unemployment to her dream job[2]. Furthermore, I was curious if such a scheme could be transferrable to my area of interest; i.e., a successful program aimed at supporting mobile, mid-career professionals seeking job opportunities.

How exciting it was to envision the following story in alignment with such an aspiring goal!

The “Intra-EU Mobility Guarantee” in practice: Ana’s journey from unemployment to her new job

Ana Gomes was 41, when she moved from her country of origin (somewhere is Southern Europe) to another major EU capital. After one year searching for a job in a field where she had more than 9 years of work experience, she was unable to take part in any special programs for those searching for employment. This was so, since she was not considered as a vulnerable group, long-term unemployed, + 45, etc. In fact, most of the programs offered by the PES (public employment services) in her city of residence focus primarily on youth and low skilled. However, what Ana really needed was a kind of individual counseling/advise commensurable to her skills and experience, instead of the usual “how to write your CV, interview and presentation” skills tailored to young jobseekers. In fact, one of the counselors she saw from a special program for jobseekers told Ana that her motivation letter, CV and experience were perfect for the jobs she was applying, and after the second meeting declared that she could not help her any further.

Language skills were not Ana’s problem, since like many European professionals, she spoke three EU languages fluently. However, perhaps one of her main disadvantages was her lack of professional networks in the place of residence, and opportunities to demonstrate her skills to potential employers.

So after many trials and no success, Ana finally heard of a new program called the “Intra-EU Mobility Guarantee” scheme aimed at facilitating intra-EU mobile citizens integration to the labour market through an “on-the-job” re-entry program. All Ana needed to qualify for the scheme was: history as a of job-seeker and registration with PES, residence in another EU Member State, +35 years of age, at least 5 years of work experience in her field. As part of the program Ana received tailored support and a job placement for 6 months commensurable to her work experience.

When I first met Ana at the office (into her three months re-entry work experience) she had a big smile and a heart filled with renewed hope in the future. But as she started to talked she said: “When I left my country with a graduate diploma, language skills, more than 9 years of work experience, a vast network of professional acquaintances and some international working experience (pause) … let me tell you, I was confident and certain that I would find a job here and continue to thrive in my career. So when the opportunity came for my partner to move here, I did not hesitate … however, after a year of unemployment and isolation from my professional network, I felt that I made a big mistake in leaving my country towards a “EU adventure”. In fact, I realized that mobility is not always advantageous for those in mid-career path, because you are too old and experience for entry jobs and not so experienced to senior one. In addition, despite being an EU citizen, I am disadvantage when competing for jobs with those who are locally trained and known by potential employers”.

With help from the “Intra-EU Mobility Guarantee” program, Ana was able to gain a foot inside the industry, and in the process help to raise the awareness of her employer to the fact that many highly skilled mobile women are an added value to the industry. In fact, after three months in the re-entry post Ana started to network with her former professional network back home, in order to facilitate a partnership towards a major project her employer was considering applying, but for which was missing an important partner in the consortium. Her boss admitted that she has never though that highly skilled intra-EU mobiles experienced disadvantages in the labour market, and that perhaps through Ana’s networking and business skills a new partnership will come about that can be very positive to her enterprise.

Within 6 months of completing the “Intra-EU Mobility Guarantee” program, Ana was able to gain: work experience in the country of destination in her field, access a professional network of colleagues and mentors, gain access to information on the “hidden job” market (including projects in the pipeline), and develop new skills, such as project development.

I am happy to state that at the end of her 6 months program Ana was given a chance to re-integrate into the labour market, as she was able to secure a temporary consultancy position with the company while they are waiting for the project she helped to develop to come through. Ana and her employer hopes that her journey will culminate in a job offer which will secure her a 3 years contract with the company and a prospect for more to come. Now as a consultant she is working full-time in a field that she not only love, but she sees her investment in her studies and work back home paying off. She said: “I am very grateful, because my talent is no longer wasted on being unemployed, I have a renewal hope on my career prospect and future opportunities to contribute to my family, employer and my host community; yet others [like me] are not so lucky, since they don’t have the opportunity to participate in a kind of support program that de facto gives you the opportunity to gain access to the labour market through employment”.

The “Intra-EU Mobility Guarantee Program” consists of a six-month’s re-entry work placement for qualified intra-EU mobile workers, age 35+, seeking employment, residing in another EU Member State, and having minimum 5 years of work experience. Placements are commensurable to workers experience and language skills, while support on language training is also offer by the programme. Participants receive a wage subsidy provided by the program, and employers are encouraged to consider them as potential candidates on new openings. Besides on-the-job training employers are encouraged to provide professional network support through for example, mentoring and career supporting activities.

Since it’s launching a year and half ago the pilot “Intra-EU Mobility Guarantee” program has had more than 300 participants throughout the European Union, with a considerable success rate on labour market integration according to the main implementers, the Public Employment Services and partners. Given its high demand by intra-EU mobile citizens and preliminary evaluation among the employers, this program is due to expand in 2017.

Like Cinderella, this story would be great news if it was, in fact, true. Unfortunately, the “Intra-EU Mobility Guarantee” program does not exist. Unlike in the fictitious story of Ana[3], many highly skilled intra-EU mobiles remain unemployed and without a re-entry program which could, like in the case of ‘Youth Guarantee’, produce concrete results in facilitating the integration into the labour market in another EU Member State and consequently increase the prospect of mobility in the EU.

Fortunately, all this may change. While writing this article, I came across a call for proposals with a new European Commission Program called: REACTIVATE – Intra-EU job mobility scheme for unemployed over 35”[4]. The program aims to support unemployed citizens in the 35+ age group, including long-term unemployed, to help them find a job, traineeship or apprenticeship with at least 6 month duration in another Member State. Reactivate will be featured as an intra-EU labour market activation measure, combining tailor-made recruitment, matching and placement services with financial support for jobseekers and employers (SMEs).

The action supported by the projects shall:

  • deliver a comprehensive, tailor-made package of mobility services, combining customized activation measures with direct financial support to both the target group of EU citizens over 35 years of age and employers (in particular SME’s);
  • include at least information and assistance with offers and vacancies, matching these with candidates and the preparation of the placement /recruitment in a number of Member States involving jobs, apprenticeships and/or traineeships; and
  • provide one or more items of direct financial support to both the target group of EU citizens over 35 years of age and employers (in particular SME’s).”[5]

From my perspective, REACTIVATE is great news! I look forward to reviewing the selected projects. I feel this scheme represents a step forward towards concrete activation measures in supporting jobseekers and potential employers through the process of recruitment, matching and placement services. Congratulation to DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion and European Parliament for supporting this new intra-EU mobility scheme.

As stated in my previous post, current re-entry programs are no panacea. They support qualified and experienced workers gaining back a foot in the labour market after a period of unemployment or transition. However, as in the case of immigrants in Canada and United States, it has been proven that bridge and re-entry programs work. Why not try new creative schemes that support mid-career professionals back into the labour market through on-the-job re-entry?

As expressed in: “Commission Work Programme 2016 – No time for Business as Usual”, “History has shown that Europeans have an inherent capacity to work hard, innovate, to create and to sell their ideas to the world. We cannot afford to lose a generation of this talent and potential.”[6]

In light of the above statement, may public services and other key stakeholders consider establishing a re-entry program consisting of work placements for professional intra-EU mobile citizens, 35+, jobseekers, residing in another Member State in line with the REACTIVATE program as a concrete response towards facilitating access to the labour market, gender equality, diversity and inclusion. After all, first and foremost, Employment is the primary motto for intra-EU mobility while the proportion of highly educated among recent intra-EU movers has increased substantially (from 27% in 2008 to 41% in 2013) [among] all citizenship groups.[7]

May 2017 advance many concrete initiatives in support of highly skilled migrant/mobile job-seekers in Europe, fostering inclusion in opportunities to participate in the labour market, creating true peace, harmony and joy for both the individual as well as their respective family members.

[1] Eurofound (2016), The gender employment gap: Challenges and solutions, Publication Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

[2] http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?langId=en&catId=89&newsId=2624&furtherNews=yes

[3] Ana Gomes is a fictitious figure, but her story is based on anecdotal accounts by intra-EU mobile professionals and personal experience of the writer.

[4] http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=629&langId=en&callId=485&furtherCalls=yes

[5] http://www.newslettereuropean.eu/reactivate-new-call-for-proposals-of-eu-job-mobility/

[6] http://ec.europa.eu/atwork/key-documents/index_en.htm

[7] http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-14-622_en.htm