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How Swedish communities should get ready for valuable work placements in social businesses

Understanding what social entrepreneurship is and what it represents for the communities is seen as essential knowledge for people willing to join Swedish social businesses as apprentices, shows the SIVSEN Comparative Analysis.

The SIVSEN research context

The SIVSEN Comparative Analysis aims to explore the transition from education (e.g., vocational college, universities) into a social enterprise workplace, including international programmes in the UK, Sweden, Italy, and Romania. During the spring and summer of 2021, the SIVSEN partners conducted research on the social enterprise sector and their interaction with the education system and work placement programmes run for learners by VET and higher education institutions, with a particular focus on work placement programmes in social enterprises. 

Key learnings from Sweden

Current challenges of providing work placements in social enterprises

In Sweden there are no national apprenticeship programmes in the social Entrepreneurship sector since the SE sector itself is very small and not regulated by law. However in regions and cities where SE:s organisations/businesses are present they can offer apprenticeships in cooperation with schools and HE in need of VFU or LIA or APL placements just as any other company offering work placement. 

Sweden has historically chosen to organize apprenticeship training within the framework of secondary schools, unlike many other European countries, such as Germany and Austria, where apprenticeship has been a main track. This means that most apprenticeships take place within the Swedish education system.

Educational providers have the main responsibility in monitoring and ensuring the quality of traineeships and apprenticeships. It is also a school’s responsibility to make sure the workplace is a good working environment and fulfils the current working requirements. The National Agency for Education has also developed general guidelines, as support for schools when ensuring if a work placement is of good quality.

Important factors are that the:

  • Activities at the workplace have sufficient width and depth within the current education area;
  • Workplace appoints a supervisor who is prepared and suitable for the task;
  • Workplace is a good working environment.

What is needed to make the apprenticeships/work experience programmes in social enterprises more attractive to the education sector and students?

More information about social enterprises and their role in society is needed. Many education providers fail to use social enterprises as possible internships/workplacements due to a misinterpretation of the tasks being too simple for the vocational education in connection to the educational goals. But it is important to know that just because you are a social enterprise it does not mean you are not a regular company, ie, café or B&B, bike repair shop etc. More knowledge and information is needed about Social enterprises and how they operate and what they can do for society.

There is also another perspective; it is important to keep in mind that the student can also learn professional competence at a later stage. Many students may primarily need to learn what it means to be in a workplace and function socially. For some students adapted workplaces are needed and adapted internships could also be needed.

Read the full SIVSEN Comparative Analysis  here.

Learn more about the Sweden national context of the work placements in the social economy sector here.