Nordic conference on voices of people with immigrant background

Material from the project conference on May 11th is now available through links in the agenda below. Thanks to all presenters and participants for fruitful discussions through the design thinking method.

The Education and Training Service Centre (ETSC) in Iceland and the Nordic Network for Adult Learning (NVL) lead the project “Voices of people with an immigrant background – inclusion in education, work and society” in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour and the Ministry of Education and Children. The project is part of the ministries’ plan for the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2023. 

In the project, focus group meetings have now been held in five regions in Iceland with groups of young people with immigrant background (18-35 years old) to highlight their views on access to education, work, and other areas of society. The views of various stakeholders and service providers as well as companies / organisations has been be sought on how processes can be adapted to the needs of immigrants.  

On May 11th, a Nordic conference was held where policy makers and various stakeholders came together to work with the results and formulate a plan of action based on the method of design thinking.  

The project is funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers, both Education and Research (EK-U) and Labor (EK-A). 

Date and time: May 11th  (8:30-17:00)  

Invitation only

Place: Hótel Natura (Berjaya Reykjavik Natura Hotel) at Nauthólsvegur 52 in Reykjavík

Moderator: Hróbjartur Árnason, director of academic development at the School of Education,University of Iceland

Language: English 

Conference agenda with presentations

8:30 Coffee and registration

9:00 Welcome – Hildur Betty Kristjánsdóttir and Fjóla María Lárusdóttir, Education and Training Service Center (ETSC)

9:05 Working mode presented – Design thinking – Hróbjartur Árnason, University of Iceland and Maria Hvid Dille, Aalborg University

Step 1 – Empathy

9:20 Emphasis of the ministry of social affairs and labour – Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, minister

9:30 Facilitating inclusion in the Nordic region – Kaisa Kepsu, Nordic Welfare Centre

9:45 Reflections – Hróbjartur Árnason and Maria Hvid Dille

9:55 Voice of immigrants – themes from the focus groups – Hermína Gunnþórsdóttir and Lara Wilhelmine Hoffman, University of Akureyri

10:30 Coffee and mingle

10:50 Themes from the reference group and insights from institutional stakeholders – Maria Hvid Dille and Hróbjartur Árnason

11:10 Working life and society – research and policy developments in Norway – Anne Solsvik and Andreas Gravdahl, advisors at the Norweigian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills (HK-dir) 

11:30 Education and inclusion – developments with „combination education“ in Sweden – Helen Myslek and Agnetha Kronqvist, Swedish National Agency for Education

11:50 Reflections – Hróbjartur Árnason and Maria Hvid Dille

12:00 Lunch and mingle

12:40 Emphasis of the ministry of higher education, science and innovation – Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir, minister

12:50 Learning and society – findings from the field and challenges in practice – Grete Kerrn Jespersen, project manager (3rd sector)

13:05 Reflections – Hróbjartur Árnason and Maria Hvid Dille

13:15 Workshop based on design thinking: Step 2 – Define

14:30 Coffee and mingle 

14:50 Workshop continued: Step 3 – Ideate

  Introduction to next steps: Step 4 – Develop and Step 5 – Test

16:45 Closing of the event – Gissur Pétursson, permanent secretary at the ministry of social affairs and labour  

For more information, contact: 

Fjóla María Lárusdóttir 

Antra Carlsen  

About the presentations and additional information material

Presentation: Facilitating inclusion in the Nordic region

Kaisa Kepsu, senior advisor at the Nordic Welfare Centre

The Nordic Welfare Centre is an institution under the social sector of the Nordic Council of Ministers. We coordinate a project that gathers, produces and disseminates Nordic knowledge on integration of refugees and immigrants. Our website is

Kaisa will present relevant research within the Nordic region and highlight main challenges.

You can find publications here.

Some interesting material for the topic could be:

The current situation of reception of refugees from Ukraine: Implementation of temporary protection for refugees from Ukraine – A systematic review of the Nordic countries, Dec 2022

Health issues: Health Literacy among immigrants, 2022

About labour market integration: Combatting long-term unemployment among immigrants beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, a comparative study analysing labour market integration of 280 000 adult refugees settled in Scandinavia, 2022 (a short version is coming up this spring)

Education: preschool as an arena for integration for the whole family, 2021

Presentation: Working life and society – research and policy developments in Norway  

Anne Solsvik, Senior adviser in the Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills (HK-dir) 

Andreas Gravdahl, Adviser in the Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills (HK-dir) 


This presentation is focusing on the Norwegian policy and strategies for the inclusion of immigrants in the working life. Initially we will present key numbers and relevant regulations, and attempt reflecting on how it may feel to be new in Norway.  

During the last 30 years the responsibility of governing the field of integration has been moved between different ministries and directorates. Inclusion of immigrants – all ages – is in fact a matter of concern within several bodies of authority; the Directorate for Integration and Diversity, but also the Directorate for Higher Education and Skills and the Directorate for Labour and Welfare. The emphasis of this presentation pinpoints the general challenges, but also includes measures aiming to facilitate participation in working life through competence and skills development; both formal and non-formal. The presented measures are included in the general work area of the Directorate for Higher Education and skills. They are not necessarily aimed at specific age groups.   
Links to material 
Utsynsmeldingen (White Paper about the priorities of the present government concerning Norway’s need for education, qualifications and skills)
Statistics on adult learning for immigrants
Statistics on immigrants in working life
Facts on immigrants in working life
Skills and Labour Market Integration of Immigrants and their Children in Norway (OECD report) 

Directorate of Integration and Diversity:

Directorate for Higher Education and Skills:

Directorate for Labour and Welfare:

Presentation: Education and inclusion – developments with „combination education“ in Sweden


Helen Myslek, Head of unit at the Swedish National Agency for Education

Agnetha Kronqvist, Director of Education at the Swedish National Agency for Education


Combined education is upper-secondary vocational programmes combined with Swedish for immigrants (sfi) or Swedish as a second language (sva) within Komvux adult education. The purpose with the education is to provide opportunity to shorten the path to work for new arrivals by having the student learn the Swedish language and a profession at the same time. The students study an integrated programme where language and vocational teachers work closely together and design integrated learning objectives based on the respective syllabus.

Helen and Agnetha will present the efforts that the Swedish National Agency for Education has carried out in their work to provide support and information to municipalities in their work with combined education – the success factor and challenges. These programmes place high demands on organization and implementation in order for them to turn out well and there are several influencing factors.

Links with more information:

Organisera och genomföra kombinationsutbildningar inom komvux – Skolverket

Skolverkets projekt Kombinationsutbildning sfi – Skolverket

Lärande exempel från språk- och yrkesintegrerande arbetssätt i kombinationsutbildningar – Skolverket

Stödmaterial för språk- och yrkesintegrerande undervisning – Nationellt centrum för svenska som andraspråk (

Presentation: Inclusion in society – findings from the field and challenges in practice

Presenter: Grete Kerrn-Jespersen, project director


The question of inclusion is not always a common agenda for those involved. Experienced legal, cultural and structural agendas which support inclusion, or build barriers for inclusion will be addressed. Examples of reimbursements arrangements reviewed as well as the role of the state, regions and municipalities. The question who should pay for education will be addressed and the views/actions of various stakeholders, service providers and organizations. Grete will bring up identified dilemmas and suggestions for improvements.


 Read more:

 Læs Faktaark 2.1 til 2.4

 Læs Faktaark og litteratur survey

 Populært kaldet Ghettolisten Social ulighed i sundhed og sygdom – Sundhedsstyrelsen

More information about Maria Hvid Dille – researcher at Aalborg University in Denmark

Practical information

Getting to Reykjavík from the airport

General information

Public transportation

Swimming pools in Reykjavík

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