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Promoting Immigrants’ Employability through Culturally Inclusive Mentoring: The Case of a Rehabilitative Work Context in Finland

Golaleh Makrooni & Marja Koskela

The integration of immigrants and enablement of their effective contribution to economic growth in their new home countries is highlighted by policymakers and governments. Many initiatives have been developed toward inclusion in the educational and work sectors. However, the cultural inclusion of individuals from diverse backgrounds is not always effectively realized during training for employment or in work environments.

Cultural inclusion enables people from different cultures to work more efficiently, optimize their capacities, and experience being part of the society they moved to and that their cultural and work background is acknowledged. Considering cultural inclusion in preparation for work and in the workplace can help to better recognize people’s agency and enable them to fulfill their potential in the new context. Educational background, language barriers, work cultures, values, and organizational structures and systems affect how people act and make their own choices and decisions. Thus, challenges encountered in society impact one’s ability to act (agency) and limit the choices and possibilities of people to operate efficiently and fully harness their potential toward their employability. Therefore, enhancing interactions and communication among locals and immigrants could help in better recognition of people’s agency and prosperity.

Fostering Hope along the Employment Journey

Language proficiency is often identified as a pivotal factor for successful integration and employment in a new homeland. Nonetheless, viewing language solely as a skill can pose challenges, as it may become an abstract concept, leaving individuals at risk of dropping out and losing hope. To address this issue effectively, language learning should be closely connected to an individual’s background, fostering a sense of meaning and personal relevance in the process. Enhancing the nteractions between locals and immigrants in their employment paths can provide opportunities for self-expression and the creation of meaningful connections. In turn, this can lead to improved mutual understanding and consequently contribute to the prosperity of immigrants in their future and employment paths in their new homeland.

Moving to a new country often means experiencing isolation and a lack of integration during a lengthy journey toward employment. Sometimes, uncertainties and presumptions create misunderstandings that emphasize differences (cultural and personal) among people from host countries and immigrants. It is not always about not accepting and welcoming others but more about feeling insecure or uncertain in approaching new situations and forming new connections. That’s why having someone available to offer constructive and concrete assistance and guidance can be immensely valuable for immigrants.

(c) Golaleh Makrooni

Mentoring as an Empowering Tool on the Employment Journey

Mentoring in the workplace can be viewed as a valuable tool for reducing the initial barriers to getting to know someone new and bridging the social gap between the local population and immigrants. Mentoring can offer many advantages, benefiting both immigrants and unemployed Finnish who serve as mentors.

Komeetta is a project funded by the European Social Fund (2021–2023) that aimed to enhance the employability of immigrant men in Finland through the development and implementation of a culturally inclusive mentoring model in which occupational and cultural knowledge was central. A culturally inclusive model was designed, tested, and developed in a rehabilitative work environment in Finland.

The Komeetta project, following a co-creation and participatory approach, has been successful in bringing the invisible and nonheard voices of immigrants as mentees and Finnish men as mentors to the surface. Based on this project’s results, mentoring has helped immigrants to improve their Finnish language as well as learn local working culture, rules, and specifically required skills. Moreover, mentoring has helped both the mentors and the immigrants in addressing uncertainties and presumptions and paved the way for more interactions and critical thinking, leading to changes in perspectives and perceptions toward each other. This has impacted the participants’ intercultural communication and knowledge and created more interpersonal relationships. Including cultural dimensions in mentoring can lead to the personal, cultural, and professional growth of both immigrants and local mentors. By incorporating personal and cultural connections, it transforms the employment path into a constructive and meaningful journey, fostering sustained motivation and empowering individuals to operate at their highest potential. In conclusion, this approach not only enhances equality but also promotes social cohesion and economic growth within communities and in society as a whole.

In conclusion, mentoring as a mutual effort could foster two-way integration in a more dynamic and functional way. Mentoring can help people learn about the new work and social environment as well as become known, which is important in sustainable (long-term and efficient) integration in a new country. This requires considering the importance of individuals’ own identities (who am I?) and their positions (what is my role?) while designing and planning integration and preparation training programs for employment. A new context and a new culture can create many new questions for immigrants to figure out. Mentoring can help in the construction and reconstruction of one’s identity. Having a diverse and inclusive working environment can be enhanced through mentoring models in which individual reflections, interactions, and communication take place between the host society and immigrants on their employment paths as well as in workplaces. This, in the end, enhances immigrants’ long-term, stable career prospects.

Read more about developed culturally inclusive mentoring model in Komeetta project here Digitarjotin | Ohjaustyön vapaa materiaalipankki! (

Read more about researchers’ final report in Komeetta project here  Komeetta-hankkeen tutkimuksellinen loppuraportti – Trepo (

Golaleh Makrooni has a PhD in education from Tampere University. She is currently working at university as a postdoctoral research fellow. Her doctoral thesis focused on First generation migrant family students in higher education in Finland. She has additionally worked on various projects related to migration and employability. In her recent work she played a significant role in structuring a culturally inclusive mentoring model in ESR project called Komeetta.

Marja Koskela, M.A, works in workers` Educational Association WEA Finland. Her expertise is in adults’ basic skills and development of working life. Together with Golaleh Makrooni she played a significant role in developing a culturally inclusive mentoring model in ESR project called Komeetta.