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A bridge to education across Denmark

| Text: Marie Preisler

The Danish project of building bridges to education for marginalised youths has proved so promising that it is now being rolled out across the whole of Denmark on a permanent basis.

The project “Brobygning til Uddannelse” (Building a bridge to education) has given so many good results that it will now become part of Denmark’s future employment measures. 3,000 youths have taken part in the project, financed by the Danish Agency for Labour Market and Recruitment (STAR). Preliminary results show four in five young people who have been taking part felt the programme was relevant and a sufficient push to make them move forward with their lives.

The results are so promising that the government and STAR wants Danish vocational schools and job centres to set up bridging programmes based on the model used in the project. 19 million Danish kroner (€2.5m) have been set aside to help vocational schools and job centres get started, and a tool has been developed for this purpose, says Jens Erik Zebis at STAR.

“We have good reason to believe that this works,” said Jens Erik Zebis as he presented the project at the conference on how to fight youth unemployment, organised by the Danish government and the Nordic Council of Ministers on 25 March in Copenhagen.

The project is aimed at young unemployed people between 18 and 29 who receive unemployment benefits, which means not the strongest but not the most vulnerable youths. Zebis calls the project’s aim “ultra ambitious”. The success criteria is that people in the target group, who often have both skills and social challenges, not only start an education but that they finish it too. And they cannot do this without help.

The project is not yet over and has not been evaluated, which means there still is no hard evidence that it works. But a mid-term evaluation provides very clear indicators, says Jens Erik Zebis. Among the group of youths who have been part of the project, ten percent more start an education compared to youths who have not been part of the project. 10 out of 12 of the project’s sub-projects have achieved significant results. 

The project’s most important tools have been mentor support, education, apprenticeship support and to get young people into vocational training. Jens Erik Zebis highlights the mentor role as a key factor for the project’s success:

“There are indicators that mentors for this group of people is the way to go. Giving a young person one hour’s mentor help a week has a significant and positive effect — especially for those who have left basic education with poor grades.”

There is a great need for measures that actually work: Nearly 40,000 young Danes on unemployment benefit lack a professional education. This means 90 to 95 percent of all people under 30 on unemployment benefits have not finished a professional education. This is a challenge for the government, which aims to get 95 percent of all youths to finish a youth education.

Project ‘Brobygning til Uddannelse’ (Building a bridge to education)

The aim is to prepare and support youths professionally and personally to finish an ordinary education.

The project’s tools are mentor support, education, support for apprenticeships and getting young people into vocational training

The target group is people on unemployment benefit – not the strongest yet not the most marginalised youths.

The projects is financed by STAR, the employment regions and the Ministry of Education. The cost is 130 million Danish kroner (€17.4m).

The project has 12 sub-projects involving 30 job centres and 40 vocational schools.

What young people in the project say:
  • Four in five say the bridging programme is relevant and has helped them get the necessary push to move on with their lives.
  • A large majority say that they want to start an education or get help to get out of the situation they are in. Many also have great faith in the projects’ ability to help them on their way.
  • A mentor is seen as central for wellbeing, trust and a sense of belonging to the project.
  • Preparatory adult education is a very positive measure which can move the young person forwards.
  • Internship programmes (educational internships and workplace internships) represent one of the project’s great strengths.
  • A smaller group of young people face challenges which mean they cannot be part of the project.

The project finished its bridge building at the end of last year, but mentor activities continue for young people who have started a professional education. The final evaluation is expected later in the spring of 2015.

The mid-term evaluation and proposals for how to strengthen measures aimed at young people with complex personal and social problems. Read more




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