The Danish agricultural trainee programme allows young foreigners to work for minimal wages on Danish farms for a period of a maximum of 18 months, provided their stay has an educational purpose. In 2008 2,374 Ukrainians were granted a residential permit and they constitute the largest group of foreign agricultural trainees (The Danish Immigration Service 2009).
The marked influx of Ukrainians has been facilitated through, among others, a network of private actors who establish contacts between young Ukrainians and Danish farmers. Traditionally, Danish agriculture has relied on apprenticeships to transmit knowledge and practical experiences between established and aspiring farmers.
Despite the increasing professionalization of agriculture, practical experience remains an essential element of agricultural training and the profession still relies on a lifestyle where trainees live on the workplace. A traineeship in Denmark enables the young Ukrainians to combine practical experience and a stay abroad with economic benefits.
The intention behind the programme is to qualify young foreigners, and many apprentices come to Danmark through exchange programmes run by agricultural universities and technical colleges in Ukraine. Some have prior experience as agricultural trainees in other EU and non-EU countries (e.g. the UK and Switzerland).
While some take short courses at Danish agricultural colleges (e.g. Dalum Landbrugsskole in Odense, or Kalø Økologiske Landsbrugsskole in Rønde), Danish trade unions have argued that the agricultural trainee programme neglects both the educational requirements and ordinary rules concerning working hours and safety.
The research will initially focus on several selected agricultural colleges situated in Jutland and Fyn, which, together with Internet resources, provide information on those farms that have a history of training Ukrainian youth. 'Snowballing' techniques will be used to enrol Ukrainian agricultural apprentices, both at the farms and at various diasporic sites in Denmark (e.g. the Russian Orthodox church), into the study.
The project is carried out by Post-doc scholar Vera Skvirskaja, Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen (currently on maternity leave).