Johanna Kakkuri, HR Manager from Wärtsilä, shows all the flags representing nationalities of Wärtsilä employees globally.
International talents, Finnish companies, and representatives from Finnish cities, higher education institutions and other stakeholders gathered in Turku in November to discuss the integration of foreign student graduates, workbased migration, support for spouses, and how diversity and art should be considered as part of internationalisation. The full-day event included a number of keynote speeches, panel discussions, and parallel sessions.
Talent Boost is a government programme launched in 2017 aiming to support the immigration and integration of international experts in Finland and in the Finnish job market. The programme is managed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment (TEM) and Business Finland.
The Talent Boost programme organises campaigns and events and facilitates networking especially between international talents already in Finland and companies recruiting and looking for growth via internationalisation. The programme includes also a Talent Explorer funding service for small and medium- sized companies to support the recruitment of their first international expert.
The Summit opened with video greetings from Minister of Employment Timo Harakka, who emphasised the need for international talents in Finland and the government’s will to strengthen international talent attraction and improve international experts’ integration and employment in Finland. For this, the government is increasing the funding of Business Finland and of integration services.
In addition, the management of work-based migration, including researchers, will be transferred from the Ministry of Interior to Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. This will hopefully make the processing of work-based and researcher residence permits easier and faster. However, the schedule of this transition is not yet known. In the Turku summit, many companies and employers’ representatives criticised the current migration bureaucracy and slow processing of residence permits. The same criticism and concerns have been raised also by FUURT, as well as higher education institutions, student unions and others.
The Ministry of Education and Culture organised a panel to exchange experiences and ideas on how to attract international students to study in Finland and how to support their transition from student to professional. The panel included representatives from higher education institutions, employers, and current or former international students.
The panellists highlighted the importance for students to build networks, which can help them find employment and better understand expectations and responsibilities of Finnish working life. Student and labour unions are critical actors in this by helping students and early career researchers to build networks while still studying and to understand the rights and responsibilities of Finnish working life.
The need for communicating tacit knowledge was also discussed. One of the challenges international students face when they enter the labour market is the lack of both work and cultural experience and knowledge. There are traditions, expectations, or customs related to working life that are obvious to their Finnish peers, but which may be unfamiliar for international talents. Coupled with a lack of substantial work experience, finding employment can be difficult. More and better efforts need to be made to educate international students and early career researchers about Finnish working life and making tacit knowledge explicit. Partnerships between Finnish higher education institutions and employers, which give students and PhD candidates opportunities to experience working life through internships, are one example how this might be achieved.
The discussion between the panellists and audience also brought forth the need for developing career paths for international staff, including researchers. Opportunities for developing expertise and career advancement are critical for international talents to stay in Finland.
The Talent Boost programme also acknowledges the importance of support system and services for international talent’s family and spouse. Concerning international talent attraction, Finland can compete and advertise itself as e.g. “the happiest country in the world”, as a family-friendly country offering good work-life balance, and as the safest country in the world. However, challenges in integration and finding employment in Finland can be very hard for the spouse. According to research, the number one reason for international assignment failure is due to the unhappiness of a spouse. This underlines the importance of spouse programmes and support.
At the Talent Boost Summit, the Hidden Gems project from the Tampere University shared their good experiences of the spouse programme. Initially the project has offered mentoring as well as integration and career support to the spouses who have followed their partners working at the Tampere University. Now the programme is extending to offer support also to spouses of company employees in the Tampere region. Other local services and spouse programmes for international talents are also being developed e.g. in International House Helsinki and Turku Science Park, who all had their representatives at the summit.
The Talent Boost Summit brought forth some good practices and critical areas needing development. FUURT is actively working on behalf of its international members, bringing forward these key points to universities and Finnish lawmakers.
Text Melissa Plath and Miia Ijäs-Idrobo
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