In the beginning of May 2019, the Slovak partners of the SOCENT SPAs project (Non-for-profit organisation EPIC and Ministry of Labour), along with a stakeholder from the Gemer region took part in a bilateral exchange of experience in Lapland. The two-day visit focused on the deepening of knowledge on good practices in social economy, work integration and rehabilitation.

The Lappish towns of Kemi and Kemijärvi faced a serious increase of unemployment and significant out-migration throughout the 1990s, which were the result of several key factories in the region shutting down. The answer to this challenge was found partly in the social enterprises operating in municipal setting.

In the meeting with the representatives of the Cooperative Uurto, we were introduced to the cooperative’s comprehensive approach to creating opportunities in transitional labour market, to education and trainings for its employees.

In the town of Kemi, we had the opportunity to meet with the representative of Meriva Foundation. Meriva Foundation, as a private foundation, organises rehabilitation and trainings for long-term unemployed and for people with disability. Afterwards we paid a site visit of the Meriva’s recycling centre, woodwork and upholstery workshop,  where long-term unemployed have found their jobs.

Towards the end of our bilateral visit, we had the change to discuss with the representative of the Town of Kemi the city’s employment policy and its activities to increase employment in Kemi. One of the activities is to run the city cooperative for entrepreneurs, where some services are shared.