Academicum – a bridge between higher education and career

An academic degree does not automatically mean a ticket to a professional career. On the contrary, many persons with a higher education have difficulties finding a job where their competences can be put to use. Academicum AB is a company that uses matching, coaching and education to bridge this gap.

Academicum was started in 2006 by two persons with a background at Uppsala University’s Faculty of Law. Bo Wennström, professor of legal science, and Mikael Persson, lecturer at the department, with UU Holding as partner.

“It started with discussions about the unemployment rate among academics, which at the time had risen dramatically in a few years,” Bo Wennström recalls. “We believed that it really wouldn’t take much for well educated people to get a job, so we started to explore if there was a competence for which there was a demand on the job market that academics relatively easily could complement their education with.”

The answer they came up with was that public authorities gladly hired more academics, but required specific competence in official administration, something that most academics with a fresh degree naturally lacked.

“So we created a program for educating official administrators that Arbetsförmedlingen − the Swedish Public Employment Service − caught on to, and it turned out to be a great success.”

“No less than 90 percent of the participants got a job,” says Mikael Persson, who is the CEO of Academicum. This encouraged us to continue with similar projects and since then the major part of our operations have concerned various programs that Arbetsförmedlingen has procured.”

Many different programs

During the years the type of program in demand has varied, as a result of political decisions and depending on who has formed the government. In 2009 a broader program called Akademikertrainee was started, combining coaching, theoretical education at Uppsala University and work as a trainee. From 2010 to 2014 Academicum offered job coaching for short-term unemployed in a national project. In 2012 “Korta vägen” (“the Shortcut”) was started. This is a program for academics born abroad that today is a central part of Academicum’s operations.

April 2012, the Minister of Enterpise Annie Lööf visited Academicum and got presentations of ongoing  and future project.

“The aim of ‘the Shortcut’ is to give recently arrived immigrants with an academic education the opportunity to get a job corresponding to their competence, and make it possible for the Swedish society to make use of their knowledge,” says Mikael.

Academicum also functions as a recruitment and staffing company and through a network of “competence angels” the company gives persons with a doctor’s degree access to private as well as the public sector contacts.

A new initiative called “Flipday” will be tested in November 2015. Flipday is an investment competition for start-up companies and entrepreneurs, where persons from the general public for one day get the opportunity to play investors and invest real money, supplied by the organizers, in the participating companies.

Competence meeting competence

So what is it that Academicum contributes that’s so special?

“A key factor is our knowledge of academics and their competences, combined with our extensive network of subsuppliers and contacts in the industry and public sector. This makes it possible for us to identify opportunities for matching and find the right educators and coaches for each situation,” Mikael says.

“We are also good at organization and can set up new efficient projects rapidly. Maintaining a high quality is also central for us and we devote much work to following-up and measuring the results of our efforts.”

Academicum’s operations have no direct links to the Departement of Law, but Bo believes that the fact the initiators were jurists still was important for the success of the company.

“As a jurist it’s natural to look for institutional solutions and to focus on the form and framework rather than on the individuals. This approach has fitted well with Arbetsförmedlingen’s need for well-structured programs.”

“Everyday law is also important in our work, as much revolves around public purchasing and agreements,” Mikael adds.

A profitable investment – for all

Today Academicum has a turnover of around 40 MSEK and 10 employees, 3 of them based in Västerås and the rest in Uppsala. In addition the company works with some 50 subsuppliers for education and coaching.

“An academic education constitutes a major investment, for the individual as well as for society. We can contribute to making this investment profitable, both in the form of a good career for the individual and in making his or her competence useful to society,” Mikael Persson says.

CEO Mikael Persson

Writer Thomas Nordanberg