Telenor Open Mind celebrates 15 years of valuable work integration
Many people with physical handicaps and immigrant backgrounds meet closed doors in the labour market. Norway’s largest work training programme – Telenor Open Mind – on Aug. 19 celebrated 15 years of successfully motivating physically handicapped job seekers and help them get ready to take part in working life.
Minister of Labour Hanne Bjurstrøm congratulated on the anniversary and noted that three in four who attend the programme end up in ordinary employment.
Getting rid of labour market discrimination
Minister of Labour Hanne Bjurstrøm was joined in the Open Mind celebrations by the leader of the opposition Conservative Party (Høyre) Erna Solberg and more than 200 employees from Telenor and other companies. Over the past 15 years 200 people with physical handicaps have had their competence mapped, developed and made visible. One of the inspiring voices heard during the celebrations was that of Open Mind participant Tony Johnsrud. Tony travels 40,000 km every year between Roa in Hadeland and Fornebu in Oslo – that’s the equivalent of travelling around the equator. His journey into working life was not easy, because Tony Johnsrud needed transport subsidies and other help to be an equal competitor in the labour market. Today Johnsrud is a shining example of successful workplace integration and has been working full time for Telenor customer services for nine years.
“Society and employers both must adapt to help people with physical handicaps get into jobs,” he says. Norwegian businesses need workers with different life experiences and skills in the face of a complex labour market and in order to create economic and social growth, Johnsrud adds.
Plurality in practical terms
There are other things besides physical handicaps that close doors to the labour market. Many people with minority backgrounds meet prejudice and discrimination when looking for work. Telenor’s CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas thinks a heatlhy company will mirror the plurality in the labour market.
“Telenor Open Mind is about people being allowed to be different, and companies deliver better results when not all of them are the same. Since the beginning in 1996 Open Mind has contributed to plurality and has helped many gap the divide they’ve felt when trying to get work,” said Baksaas.
The Open Mind program is part of Telenor’s corporate social responsibility, and the organization of work tasks for integration fits well with Telenor’s international profile and as one of Norway’s leading companies.
Head of Telenor Open Mind Ingrid Ihme supports her CEO’s vision.
“The Open Mind programme is a win-win situation for employers, participants and society as a whole,” says Ihme. “We are all winners when we include people who face work related handicaps. At the programme’s end a full 75 per cent of the participants have found regular work, many with Telenor but even more in other companies. I am happy to work for a company that is in the vanguard of this area and I hope we inspire Norwegian businesses to actively pursue workplace integration,” says Ihme, who has been part of Open Mind since the start.
During a ceremony at Telenor’s headquarters – a building which is universally designed – Open Mind was praised by both Minister of Labour Hanne Bjurstrøm and Conservative leader Erna Solberg. Telenor Executive Vice President and President of the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (NHO) Kristin Skogen Lund and Ingrid Ihme took part in a debate alongside the visitors and Bærum deputy mayor Lisbeth Hammer Krog on how workplace integration strengthens Norwegian businesses and what other measures need to be introduced. The guests underlined the important contribution Open Minds has made to get people with physical handicaps into work, and that all companies which have pursued similar activities say they have got more back than what they invested in such programmes.