The workplace exchange programme led by the Integration and Migration Foundation Our People fulfils a number of objectives: it empowers people to speak Estonian and share their professional experience, thus encouraging an understanding and acceptance of different cultures, customs and backgrounds.
A total of 60 police officers, library staff, medical and educational workers from Ida-Viru County whose native languages were languages other than Estonian took part in the workplace exchange programme coordinated by the foundation in 2009.
Workers from other fields can also participate in the exchange programme: specialists in public order and security, public administration, education and health care, as well as public sector workers whose Estonian language skills are insufficient.
As part of the programme, workers are sent on exchanges lasting between 2 and 4 weeks to Estonian-language working environments and also attend 60 hours of Estonian language classes. The language studies are divided into three: pre-, during and post-exchange. The participants then later themselves host colleagues from Estonian living and working environments.
23 police officers from Ida-Viru County participated in workplace exchanges in 2009. Heidi Varinurme, the chief specialist on the working environment with the Personnel Department of the Eastern Police Prefecture, says that workplace exchanges are a popular way for officers to improve their language skills. “They tend to come back with much better language skills than they went away with, and much more confidence when speaking Estonian,” she explained. “And not only does their Estonian improve, but they also form lasting professional ties with officers from other parts of the country that often continue well after an exchange.”
Workplace exchanges for adults with insufficient skills in Estonian have been organised by MISA and its forerunners for many years. Since 2008 the foundation’s aim has been to arrange 165 such exchanges each year, up to and including 2010.
The two companies responsible for the exchanges ordered by the foundation and supported by the European Social Fund in 2009 were AS Erahariduskeskus and AS TEA Keeleõpetus. MISA’s partners are selected through relevant competitions and procurements.