Short-term skills transfer schemes

Skills transfer is an element of human capital with a long operational history and a bright future. Originating in the 1970s as sector-specific short-term volunteer schemes, skills transfer schemes have evolved significantly to the point that they are now collaborative partnerships that prioritise mutual learning. Despite changes over time, they are, at their very core, human capital transfer schemes even though this is not always explicit in the design. As such, the transfer of skills is often accompanied by other forms of human capital, such as knowledge, expertise, talent, resources and social networks.

Skills transfer schemes can drive innovation, reverse brain drain, and contribute to national and international development goals. Diaspora can add value in many ways, such as through their linguistic and cultural knowledge, familiarity with local realities and practices, connections and networks at local and international levels, access to local communities & trust, and their strong emotional bond to their countries of heritage.

This page is based on the “Learning by doing” dossier in which we address trends and challenges in skills transfer schemes that seek to leverage diaspora expertise for sustainable development. We offer practical guidance for both conceptualising and testing such schemes and share our experience in doing so and proposals on scale up and replication.

Read on for a précis, or download the publication for the complete reflection.

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While a consultant is expected to be objective and provide the same quality of service to any client, as a diaspora professional, the heartstrings are pulled, and passion becomes a key ingredient: wanting to genuinely support because you know what's really at stake.
Reina Angoujard
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Global trends

Skills transfer mechanisms can be classified initially by timeframe: long-term (talent attraction) and short-term (assignment-based). Governments, diaspora and international organisations have proven experience in initiating both types of scheme, and often work in partnership, often with the private sector.



Talent attraction programmes

  • • Inspire return
  • • In-person participation
  • • Salaried work (+package of relocation incentives)
  • • Respond to market and labour needs
  • • Coordinated recruitment and accompaniment
  • • Target individuals

Short-term schemes

  • • Short-term deployments (2 weeks – 3 months)
    • In-person, virtual and hybrid methods
  • • Often volunteer-based
  • • Sector/group-specific (e.g. science, tech, health, youth)
  • • Knowledge sharing
  • • Brian circularity
  • • Target individuals, organisations & networks
Top tip: Mix & match schemes

Many countries have a mixed portfolio of skills transfer schemes, adjusted to labour market needs and priorities and the diversity of returning migrants, catering to both those working in low-skilled sectors, but also to scientists, technologists and experts.

Key challenges

Both talent attraction and short-term skills transfer schemes can face a number of challenges depending on the national and diaspora context. When designing a new scheme, it is important to consider the potential challenges and conduct a risk assessment.

Policy and regulatory framework

Lack of robust policies and regulatory norms impedes skills transfer schemes.

Communication and awareness

Insufficient promotion of programmes hampers awareness of skills transfer opportunities, while limited or misleading information among the diaspora community creates trust issues.


Scarce, outdated and low-quality data on the labour market, sectoral needs and skills gaps results in poorly designed programmes, restricts recruitment potential and renders skills matching inefficient.

Absorption capacities of host institutions

Issues such as ineffective leadership, limited management capacities and unclear ownership can lead to resource management issues and misalignment with national priorities. Lack of effective monitoring and evaluation also limits the potential for learning and scale-up.

Financial resources

Securing long-term funds for resource-constrained governemnts or organisations poses a difficulty for scheme longevity. For talent attraction, wage standards may be lower than those in the country of residence, and salaries in public sector schemes are often not competitive with the private sector.

Integration and mobility

Visas, travel restrictions and immigration policies can affect the mobility of the diaspora. Inefficient infrastructure and/or mentorship support provided to the expert on-site also limits potential impact.

Perception of diaspora
  • Public opinion can pose a challenge for participants and scheme organisers, with negative perception of returnees for “taking” jobs from residents, or resentment for perceived privileged treatment (real or not).
  • The historic dynamics of diaspora engagement between government and diaspora can generate fear of exploitation and a desire for greater recognition of work done.
Short-term skills transfer in action

At EUDiF, we have run our own skills transfer schemes, supported governments to scope and set up their own, and developed a methodology for profiling skills (the subject of another page). Diaspora expertise spans all sectors, generations and knowledge types, we are particularly proud of our work on these fronts:

Roadmap for sustainable skills transfer models

EUDiF recommends a systematic approach for conceptualising and designing short-term schemes, consisting of four distinct phases, each of which involves ongoing monitoring to ensure effectiveness. The phases presented here are merely an overview – check out the full publication for a more concrete and complete list of sub-steps!

Phase I: Initiation

A well-defined concept or strategy is crucial. It should outline the objectives, target sectors, practical modalities and specific outcomes of the knowledge transfer schemes. The strategy should also identify the diaspora communities of interest and the mechanisms to reach out to them.

Phase 2: Planning

Establishing an institutional framework to oversee and coordinate diaspora knowledge transfers is essential. This may involve creating a dedicated team or service within a ministry or agency, such as the MFA or a diaspora unit.

Phase 3: Execution

Operationalising diaspora knowledge transfer schemes involves turning the strategic vision into practical actions and initiatives that facilitate effective collaboration.

Phase 4: Monitoring and evaluation

Establishing a robust monitoring and evaluation system helps assess the impact and effectiveness of knowledge transfer schemes. It allows for continuous improvement and ensures that the initiatives align with the set objectives.

  • Five of the Youth Diaspora Community (internship alumni) at the 7th European migration Forum