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Sweden’s Skill Shift Initiative

In response to evolving economic circumstances caused by COVID-19 furloughs and layoffs, civic leaders in Sweden have teamed up to design programs that rapidly train out-of-work Swedes to fill positions in industries that are in desperate need of personnel. The “Skill Shift Initiative” (“Beredskapslyftet” in Swedish) is the brainchild of Oscar Stege Unger and Fredrik Hillelson. Unger is the Director of The Wallenberg Foundations, a philanthropy that has granted approximately $3.5 billion to research projects beneficial to Sweden. Hillelson is the CEO and founder of Novare, a multifaceted company group that specializes in human capital.

The two men partnered with Sophiahemmet University‘s President Johanna Adami to bring the idea to life. The Sweden-based music streaming giant Spotify and law firm Roschier have also made significant contributions. Those involved hope that their efforts will serve a dual purpose: provide employment during the economic crisis, and reinforce the healthcare and education systems.

Johanna Adami

The group was spurred to action when SAS Scandinavian Airlines announced a furlough of 90% of its 11,000 employees. Because cabin crew members are already trained in first aid, common diseases, safety and how to care for people, they make ideal candidates for roles as assistants in hospitals and nursing homes. This frees up seasoned medical professionals and caretakers to respond to coronavirus issues.

There are some incredibly competent people in this country who will be able to offer relief to our healthcare services immediately after completing the training so that doctors and nurses can to an even greater extent devote themselves to caring for patients.

Johanna Adami, President, Sophiahemmet University

The 3-Day Program

The Skill Shift program – designed by nurses designed by Christina Sundman and Christina Riddebäck – consists of a 3-day intensive medical training at Sophiahemmet in Stockholm. Initially 30 SAS employees were selected for the pilot program. That number has now grown to 300. And the initiative has already expanded beyond the airline industry. Last week it announced a collaboration with Grand Hôtel Stockholm, Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, and McDonald’s. Employees from those organizations will receive the same training. Recently, the initiative also announced that it has developed a 3-day training curriculum for unemployed individuals to fill in for primary school staff. Many educators have been forced to take time off due to illness or to care for their families. Most primary schools in Sweden remain open and are conducting classes as usual.

Sweden has faced intense scrutiny in recent weeks for its laissez-faire approach to the coronavirus pandemic. The government has encouraged the elderly, vulnerable, and those showing symptoms to stay home, but it has not mandated a compulsory lockdown. Gatherings of up to 50 people are still allowed. Leaders have encouraged voluntary precautionary measures, and public activity has declined, but restaurants and bars still have patrons, and children still attend school and frolic in the playgrounds. Critics, including prominent Swedish doctors researchers, have warned that the lax policies will lead to disaster. As of today, the country as tallied over 10,000 COVID-19 cases and 887 deaths.

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