Sooooo, what's going on with me is that I'm with the Red Cross for the next... 6 months or so.
The last time I was in a work practice placement it was a daycare ( The equivalent of The Previouslies, a short summation of how I wound up switching Employment Goals )
I decided to do some retail for the time being, because I have some experience of it and it's doable without any certification or training, unlike many other fields.
My Finnish isn't perfect - it's what you'd call "fine" or "pretty good" probably, and I'm still terrified of someone unintelligible due to mumbling or regional accent coming along, but I don't have trouble ordinarily. It's also been 13 years since I was a cashier though, and the technology has changed since then, and I've never done it in Finland anyway. So when the little group of social workers, employment bureau caseworkers and mental health professionals that my therapist's workgroup belongs to heard my explanation, they swiftly concluded that a few work practice placements in different areas of retail would be best, because it would provide the best chance to polish my Retail Finnish language skills and appease my anxiety by familiarity with environment and expectations of the field.
They also sent me to a new department of the Employment Bureau, which - okay, let me just pause here to note that this is amazing as fuck: The Employment Bureau has a SECRET DEPARTMENT
where they give slightly more help to people who need slightly more help. In the ordinary run of things, caseworkers there have 500+ customers apiece and are overworked and underfunded to death. I've had like four caseworkers in the last few years before this already. And when you go to their information desk, or to their ordinary caseworkers, and ask for more help, they typically send you to that Career Planning course that I was sent to a couple years ago, which wasn't useless but was aimed at people who needed help navigating the bureaucracy and things like that more than people suffering from social anxieties and culture barriers and uncertainty about their language skills.
But even though I had previously inquired in multiple places about help, nobody at the Employment Bureau had been empowered to tell me about the existence of this department, which I gather you get sent to only with the referral of a psychologist or psychiatrist? That's where the representative came from who was at the the meeting with my psychologist I mentioned, and he immediately put in a request to have me transferred to that department. I got a new caseworker from there who was calm, friendly, brisk, and reassuring. She said that if I hope to work arranging the little showrooms at Ikea there's a certification for that (Somistaja, a window dresser/display maker) which depends on the certification for being a salesperson.
So she sent me to the Red Cross's thrift store, Kontti, which is staffed with students, volunteers, work practicants and people eligible for the thing where social security reimburses the employer for their salary. So it's almost entirely charity, with most of the proceeds going to the Red Cross's various projects in Finland (50%) and abroad (25%), plus it's very diverse and friendly and generally a pretty nice place. Their reputation as a training ground for retail and warehouse workers who then move on to employment elsewhere is so good, in fact, that they are fairly selective with their new trainees - the big boss told us in our introduction on Tuesday that our group of 8 represented over 100 applicants over a couple of months, which is like... a Harvard-like acceptance rate. (The Swedish language got me in the door here, I'm pretty sure: EVERYBODY who hears that I'm interested in retail and speak fluent-ish Swedish gets excited, because there's a huge demand for that skill due to the legal and practical requirement for stores to have someone who can speak it on hand - there aren't really many Swedish monolinguals around, but there are still a few.) You can also get salesperson certification on the job there, as well as a long list of other certifications - the lady who was supervising me and my fellow new-cashier trainees yesterday is on the verge of finishing one in business admin. (Hence why it was my caseworker's first choice.)
We spent the first couple of days on the warehouse side, where the donations are processed, sorted and priced, and it has to be seen to be believed. It's just such an unbelievable quantity of stuff
. The area around the station where the bags are emptied and unpacked is just like something out of a movie, walls made out of racks and shelves and carts packed solid with bags of donated stuff waiting to be opened - cases four feet deep and six feet tall, banana boxes towering up towards the warehouse ceiling, and an overflow area with just a five or six foot high mountain of bags just... piled against the wall like a heap of snow. But that's only the beginning of the journey, because once they're unpacked and sent to the proper departments there's yet more sorting to do. The front half of the warehouse is also packed with racks, crates, shelves and bins of objects on their way to the store front, so it's a bit like an antique mall except cleaner - one little room of china, one little room of books, one little room of paintings, one little room of toys, one little room of electronics - where the walls between them are once again made of storage packed solid on both sides with stuff. Walking in for the first time felt a bit like, I don't know, visiting Willy Wonka's factory, or one of those quaint little Museums of Curiosities.